Sydney Kings owner Paul Smith has sensationally lashed out at the NBL, claiming the league reneged on a handshake agreement not to award this season’s championship.
The Kings were down 2-1 to the Perth Wildcats in the best of five series when, due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it was decided to abandon the remaining games.
Sydney Kings star Andrew Bogut has also criticised the league in the wake of the move.
While not at all fussed by the result of the championship, in a Friday morning press conference Bogut said the league had done a poor job in listening to players’ concerns prior to the grand finals being cancelled.
“There’s a lot of half-truths throughout this whole process,” Bogut said.
“It’s hugely disappointing for any professional athlete to have to make the decision that we made. But, to me, what’s more disappointing is the way the NBL’s handled this, and that’s got nothing to do with them picking Perth as a winner.
“To me there are three things about the way any organisation handles thing: proactively, being reactive, and then doing things retroactively.
“The retroactive aspect (from the NBL) has been a 10/10, the proactive stuff has been honestly a 1, and reactive about a 5.
“Seemed like it was blocking your ears out to everything outside.
“Outside the Kings brass it was a case of ‘la la la la la’.
“This isn’t about going back and forward with Perth.”
Bogut went on to express disappointment over how the decision to abandon the finals series had been driven by the players.
The former NBA star said action had only been taken because the players had spoken out.
“The disappointing thing is that it was left up to the players to decide,” Bogut said.
“It was up to us to initiate these meetings, to push these meetings, to find out is there going to be a crowd or isn’t there.
🏌️♂️🏌️♂️🏌️♂️— Sam Phillips (@samphillips06) March 20, 2020
Andrew Bogut had the driver out this morning. Took aim at NBL’s handling of coronavirus crisis (not the decision to crown Perth champs) + the NRL/AFL for good measure.https://t.co/bU526k4WtI
“Our front office had to call the league and Perth and going on a call and be like, ‘what’s going on? Are the fans coming in?’. We had to initiate that.
“I’m on record saying that because I know it’s a fact. What happened after that is what it is. That’s where the disappointment lies.”
Kings owner accuses NBL, Wildcats of reneging handshake agreement
Smith, who purchased the team prior to the 2019-20 season, has claimed both the NBL and the Wildcats reneged on the deal in which no champion would be declared unless all five games of the series were played.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Smith claimed the agreement was ‘explicit’, accusing the NBL of lacking leadership.
“We had an explicit three-way conversation last Friday because the NBL could provide no guidance, they hadn't a clue what to do, with the scenarios that were unfolding,” Smith said.
“It was explicitly stated by the Wildcats and the Kings that neither was to have the championship without completing the five-game series.”
Tension has simmered between the Kings and Wildcats throughout the season, most notably when Smith accused the Western Australian club of attempting to ‘corporatise’ the Indigenous round earlier this year.
In further comments to the Herald, Smith said the NBL’s leaders had failed.
“This is a void of leadership because it’s not leadership, it's ownership,” he said.