NBL issue decal warning to teams and players

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NBL teams and player delegates have been told "penalties" will be issued for publicly criticising the league about slippery decals and officiating.

The continued criticism over the issue of player safety reached a breaking point for the league amid its inaugural NBL Cup after multiple players took to social media to voice concern over on-court advertising.

Didi Louzada, a Brazilian guard who was drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans and stashed at the Sydney Kings, led the chorus of criticism after slipping multiple times on decals during his team's Round 7 game against Melbourne United.

"This league is kidding me, "Louzada tweeted after the game. "They don't care about the players ... that's my thoughts. I'm tired of being silent."

A memo distributed to all NBL teams this week, obtained by ESPN, reminded them that players and officials can receive penalties for their public comments "with respect to decals, but also any other matters that would generally be regarded as bringing the league into disrepute".

The memo added the NBL "understand(s) that players are concerned about their well-being," and said of the public comments that have already been made: "while some have been measured, others have ranged from being disproportionate to complete nonsense."

To date, no fines have been issued, sources told ESPN, but the memo adds: "...we absolutely need to draw a line and will be issuing penalties in respect to any further comments of this nature."

The Australian Basketball Players' Association has urged the NBL to take action on the decal situation three separate times throughout the 2021 season, though the issue continues to arise.

Andrew Bogut, a one-time NBL MVP and current member of the Players' Association board, tweeted on Friday about players potentially being fined by the league for public comments.

"The NBL has addressed the decal issue by informing clubs all players and club officials will be FINED if they make any more comments about falling on decals," Bogut tweeted.

"NBL funded media have also been told not to discuss the issue. If we don't talk about it, it didn't happen."

Reached for comment, the NBL provided this statement to ESPN: "Under the NBL's rules, any owner, staff member, player or official can be sanctioned for any public comments that bring the league into disrepute. These are not new rules, and their application is no different to this issue as to any other matter that may be the subject of any public commentary.

"We continue to engage in active dialogue with the players through the ABPA, and are also working closely with the clubs and venues to ensure the highest standards of court maintenance.

"The current decals comply with FIBA standards but we are continuing to explore all avenues for improvement and we all agree that player safety is paramount."

Players and team officials continue to privately take issue with what they believe are unsafe working conditions, but the league's stance hasn't changed with regard to keeping the decals in place.

On the conversation around potentially removing the decals, the memo said: "This is not an option that is even on the table for consideration, and that the financial ramifications of doing so would be absolutely prohibitive in the current environment.

"Once again, we will happily work with each of you, your players, and the ABPA, to discuss any issues you may want to raise or alternatives to consider, but will only do so privately and professionally."

During NBL Cup games, floor cleaners have been spending extra time to wipe down the decals, in order to limit the risk as much as possible, though there were still slippages in the league's most recent game.

Josh Giddey, a projected first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, slipped on a decal at the end of the first quarter, while the Illawarra Hawks' Tyler Harvey also fell on multiple occasions.