Will the NBA Season Return? Adam Silver Offers Clues on League Plans

Could we get a LeBron vs. Giannis Finals in the age of coronavirus? There's hope

Could we get a LeBron vs. Giannis Finals in the age of coronavirus? There's hope

Will we get a chance to see LeBron James and the West-leading Lakers go head-to-head with Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers and/or star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks? Ultimately, that’s what NBA fandom wants to know.

Maybe we’re starting to see some answers.

Since abruptly shutting down the season back on March 11 after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the novel coronavirus, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been in contact with the owners he represents, players union head Michele Roberts, and media outlets when he has been able to give updates on the state of the league.

On Friday, he addressed a group that has not heard much from Silver to date: NBA players themselves.

In an afternoon conference call, Silver told players that the league is still waiting on making a decision whether to play again this season and that the decision could be pushed into June, at the latest. It will be weeks, then, before we know whether this season will get any kind of champion.

What’s more, if the league does come back, it will be without fans in the seats, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic. The NBA draws an estimated 40 percent of its revenue from fans attending games so the financial hit there would be obvious.

Las Vegas, Orlando, Toronto Possible NBA Locations

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, the league is looking at conducting a postseason that will center in either one or two locations: Las Vegas or Orlando, where players would play at Disney World. It’s possible that both locations could be used, Orlando for the Eastern Conference and Las Vegas for the Western Conference. Silver also did not rule out Toronto as a potential spot to finish the season, according to Haynes.

Before returning to action, Silver estimated teams would get between 3-6 weeks of training.

Another tidbit from the call, from Haynes: The league would like to have all playoff series last seven games, as they usually do. There has been speculation that the league could truncate some playoff series, cutting them to five or even three games, but Silver told the players that is not under consideration.

The playoffs will, however, must be shortened to some extent. Normally, the postseason drags from mid-April through mid-June, sometimes a nine-week slog. For example, last year’s Raptors, the NBA champs, played 24 postseason games spread over 61 days.

With travel days eliminated if the playoffs are held in only two locations, the schedule could be condensed. But the league would still need about six weeks to get through four postseason rounds.

Testing, Quarantine Keys to Safe NBA Return

Probably the biggest issue Silver and the league will face is what happens if someone tests positive from coronavirus. Absent a vaccine, no matter how well-sanitized the facilities are in Las Vegas, Orlando, or wherever the league plays, that is going to remain a possibility. And that will help guide Silver’s decisions.

As one league executive told Heavy.com, “The last thing the league wants is to get things running again and then see a bunch of infection. It’s not worth coming back if that is the cost. If there is some assurance that anyone who tests positive can be isolated and quarantined before spreading it to anyone else, that’s going to be the key. But they’ll need a lot of tests. And they’ll need buy-in from the players and coaches. If players are not behind it, there’s not going to be a return.”

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