Japanese basketball league briefly returns, shuts back down

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Japan’s B League returned to play this past weekend, but has already suspended play again.

The Japan Times called it a “chaotic weekend of games”. Several players chose to sit out due to safety concerns over playing so soon after being cleared of COVID-19 concerns. A game between Levanga Hokkaido and Kawasaki Brave Thunders was postponed after a player came down with a fever pre-game.

A second contest between Utsunomiya Brex and Chiba Jets Funabashi was called off after one of the referees had a fever. All games were to be played without fans present in the arenas.

United States-born big man Jeff Ayres elected not to return to play in Japan due to his worries over the precautions that teams were taking to protect player. Ayers was leading the league in rebounding at the time of his decision. Ayers told ESPN “I felt we were putting ourselves at risk. It was a reckless environment.”

Japan has become a popular destination for US-born players, especially big men. Due to the dearth of players over 6-foot-6 in the domestic population, Japanese clubs often look to foreign-born players for size. Ayers was one of over 20 US imports signed to roster in the B League this season.

The B League currently plans to return to play on April 1, assuming they can work through their remaining issues.