Just as the second half of the NBA season was starting to get warmed up, the league – and the rest of the world – was caught off-guard by the coronavirus. Virtually no one would have anticipated that the virus would bring the virtually everything to a complete standstill, and certainly no one thought that anything could cause sports to be canceled.
Yet, here we are, scrambling to make the best of an obnoxiously dangerous situation, hoping that we can all return to some type of normalcy soon. Not a day goes by when people don’t ask for an update on when sports leagues will resume, and the NBA is being bombarded with questions. As of right now, no decision has been made, but any outcome is going to change the face of the game at least through the next couple of seasons.
The NBA is prepared to keep the current suspension in place until at least June, which spells financial disaster for the league, teams and even players. Currently, losses are expected to be around $1 billion, and could climb even higher if the season isn’t allowed to resume soon. Per the collective bargaining agreement, players can have their salaries cut in the event of any “force majeure,” and this is going to cause problems.
The league has already agreed to cut checks for the April 1 payday, but, after that, nothing has yet been established. Players are looking at losses of 21%-24%, depending on when – and if – play resumes for the season.
In addition to the financial damage, there will also have to be changes made to league events, such as the draft and playoffs, which could add insult to injury. There is also the possibility that, should the games get back underway, no fans will be allowed to attend, making the contests essential virtual games. Something would be better than nothing, and fan-absent games would still be able to make the best of the situation. There’s always TV and radio, and this would be a good start at rebuilding the broken economy.
While the NBA isn’t sure yet how to proceed, one thing is certain – everyone wants their basketball. League officials, team owners and most players want the season to play all the way through, even if this means holding the finals in August or September. Were that to happen, the 2020-21 season would most likely be pushed back to December to allow players time to take a break.
At least one team owner expects things to get rolling before August. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban predicts that some games could begin within two months and that normal operations would follow soon after.
“Hopefully by the middle of May, we’re starting to get back to normal and the NBA is playing games,” Cuban told WFAA-TV in Dallas. “Maybe not with fans, but we’re playing it because sports plays such an important role. You know, people want something to cheer for, people want something to rally around, people want something to be excited about.”
The decision whether or not to resume NBA action doesn’t rest solely with league commissioner Adam Silver, or even team owners. Some locations across the country are on complete lockdown, with strict rules in place regarding how many people are allowed to share the same space. In some cases, gatherings of more than ten people are prohibited and, as long as these local ordinances are active, the NBA has no alternative but to comply.
Bets on when the league will get going are available on several sportsbooks, and Cuban knows where he would put his money. He thinks the regular action – not counting empty stadium games – will definitely be here by June 1, with his comments on a May launch being the best alternative. He added to WFAA, “I mean, you know no one has perfect information right now, and so all decisions are tough. But, you know, if I had to guess based off the people I’ve talked to at the CDC and other places — I would say that the over/under would be June 1, and I’m taking the under.”