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(2nd LD) Suspended men's basketball season to resume after 4 weeks

All News 15:01 March 02, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS decision by women's league at bottom)

SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean men's professional basketball league announced Monday that its regular season, halted since the weekend due to the new coronavirus, will resume at the end of this month.

Following its emergency board meeting, the Korean Basketball League (KBL) said its 10 teams will be back in action starting March 29.

The photo shows an empty Wonju Gymnasium in Wonju, 130 kilometers east of Seoul, on March 1, 2020, following the cancellation of a Korean Basketball League regular season game between the home team DB Promy and KCC Egis. (Yonhap)

To help curb the spread of the virus, the KBL first started playing regular season games behind closed doors last Wednesday. But on Saturday, it decided to put the season on hold, beginning with games scheduled for Sunday, after a guest who stayed at the same hotel as a KBL team, the KCC Egis, in Jeonju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul, tested positive for COVID-19.

KBL teams play 54 games per season, and they've so far played 42 or 43 games. The regular season was originally set to end on March 31.

Lee In-sik, KBL's secretary general, said the entire season, including the championship final, would have ended on May 10 under normal circumstances, and the goal is to have all teams play the full 54-game regular season schedule and wrap up the playoffs by May 10.

"There will be a lot going on during the offseason, including free agency, and so we have to finish everything by then," Lee said. "With that in mind, we felt it was appropriate to resume the season after four weeks, and there was no dissenting opinion."

This will obviously mean shortened playoffs. Typically, the first two rounds are best-of-five and the championship final is best-of-seven. The KBL could adjust the schedule, so that the first two stages will be best-of-three and the final becomes best-of-five.

Lee said the league is also considering turning the first two rounds into one-and-done affairs and making the final a best-of-three series.

Last week, three foreign players, two Americans and one Serbian, left their teams over coronavirus fears.

Lee acknowledged that more foreign players could be on the move, but said the KBL will leave it up to individual teams to handle their own situations.

The KBL said if the situation with the virus improves in the coming days, the resumption of the season could come earlier than scheduled.

In a future meeting, the KBL will explore the possibility of holding games in neutral venues near Seoul, in order to reduce traveling for teams.

Also on Monday, the Women's KBL (WKBL) decided to keep on playing the rest of the regular season behind closed doors until further notice, rather than following in the KBL's footsteps.

WKBL games have been closed off for spectators since Feb. 21.

Representatives from the six WKBL teams met Monday to discuss possible suspension of their season. But one participant in the meeting said the teams concluded it'd be safer for players to continue playing.

"During the season, players stay in their team dormitories, isolated from the outside world, and we agreed that it would actually help them stay healthy," the official said. "If we were to put the league on hold now, there's no telling when we can resume playing. Players would then have to go home and that would make them more vulnerable (to the virus)."

WKBL teams play 35 games each in the regular season, and they've each played 25 games so far this season.

This photo provided by the Korean Basketball League shows the home team SK Knights and ET Land Elephants playing a regular season game without spectators at Jamsil Students' Gymnasium in Seoul on Feb. 29, 2020. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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