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BJL players balking over playoff finals location

Date Posted: 2011-04-14

Americans playing on Basketball Japan League teams are voicing opposition over the planned playoff finals site at Ariake Coliseum, citing concerns over the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant difficulties.

Those opposed to having the playoffs in Tokyo at Ariake Coliseum, a 15,000 seat stadium with a retractable roof, are arguing Kobe would be a more reasonable substitute. Foreign players, particularly in the Western Conference, are telling officials they’ll simply not play if the games are played in Tokyo, because nobody wants to be anywhere near Fukushima.

The overall playoff schedule is still being reworked to arrange the Western Conference games, which will include Okinawa’s Ryukyu Golden Kings. Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix and the Niigata Albirex BB will host first round games against either the Akita Northern Happinets or Toyama Grouses May 7th and 8th. Beyond that, dates and venues have not been announced, but one team executive says the league should be making plans for an alternate location.

Okinawa has been proposed as a possible Final Four site, as have Osaka, Kyoto and Shiga. American Billy Knight, playing for the Osaka Evessa, says the league should stick to its guns. “I will play in Tokyo,” says Knight. “Guys on my team will all play in Tokyo. The guys on the team who are scared are gone now.” Okinawa’s Jeff Newton, the only player in the league’s history to have won four championship rings, says he’ll lead the Ryukyu Golden Kings anywhere. “I don’t plan on missing the finals,” he says, “no matter where they’re held.”

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