Basketball: Tigers' future up in the air

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The British Basketball League was forced to divert its focus from this weekend's play-off quarter-finals with the untimely announcement by John Nike OBE that he was ending his long-term backing for the Thames Valley Tigers, throwing the future of the franchise into doubt.

The British Basketball League was forced to divert its focus from this weekend's play-off quarter-finals with the untimely announcement by John Nike OBE that he was ending his long-term backing for the Thames Valley Tigers, throwing the future of the franchise into doubt.

The Tigers, however, will complete this season's schedule and went ahead with last night's opening quarter-final away to League runners-up Newcastle Eagles.

The decision by Nike has prompted speculation that the nearby Reading Rockets may step up from the second-tier English Basketball League to take Tigers' place in the BBL.

Initially though the BBL chairman, Vince Macaulay-Razaq, said: "We are already in discussion with a number of new operating companies to take over the franchise."

In this weekend's remaining quarter-finals, third-placed London Towers face Scottish Rocks (sixth) and defending play-off champions Sheffield Sharks (fourth) play Brighton Bears (fifth) tonight. Chester Jets, who clinched the league championship in their final game of the regular season last weekend, are at home to eighth-placed Milton Keynes Lions tomorrow.

Jets' coach Paul Smith said: "It's a massive understatement to say we are delighted with our season. But we have to prepare for tomorrow's game with the same good habits we've used all season."

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