The league calculates losses of more than 1,000 million but avoids any risk for the players, who return to individual training and refuse to focus.
The NBA opts for caution as a premise in its decision-making before what it considers “the greatest challenge” in its history. This was defined by his commissioner, Adam Silver, in a video conference on Friday, with the players. The criteria was set from the most critical day, March 11, when, upon learning of the positive by Rudy Gobert’s covid-19, the game between Utah and Oklahoma City was canceled when the players were already preparing for the initial jump . The league was then suspended.
The owners of the 30 franchises have evaluated numerous possibilities to save the season. The idea of playing the remainder of the regular phase and the playoffs in one or two venues takes shape. Orlando and Las Vegas are shaping up to be the candidates, but the players, confined to their homes for several weeks, object to isolating themselves with their teams for the time necessary to complete the season. Several were able to start training individually and voluntarily on Friday, albeit with a maximum of four per facility and the express prohibition on having coaches, rehearsing in groups, or doing one-on-one exercises.
That day only a few players from Cleveland and Portland started training. On the 11th, Denver, Sacramento, Toronto and possibly Miami will open their facilities to make individual training possible. A few days later Houston, the Lakers, the Clippers and perhaps Atlanta are planning to do the same. This is a first step that relieves players and provides some hope that the league will return to activity. These teams hope that the health authorities will allow the players and the personnel who attend the individual training sessions to be tested for the coronavirus. The situation is very uneven in the United States and Canada depending on the measures that each state or territory adopts against the pandemic. The NBA considers a minimum of 25 days of group work necessary in order for the competition to resume. In addition, some non-US players must return from their countries, the case of Slovenian Luka Doncic. These basketball players, once they return to the United States, must be quarantined.
Adam Silver, in his address to the players, warned: “This is going to be difficult, and for a long time. We need to work together. Difficult decisions lie ahead. No one will agree on everything. We have some difficult days of collective bargaining ahead, with grim financial realities. ” And he reported that the league is already considering even the possibility of playing next season without an audience, as long as a vaccine against covid-19 is not found.
The NBA has avoided setting a date to resume competition and is considering, among other ideas, the possibility that the next season will begin in December. On May 1, he canceled the draft lottery due to take place on the 19th of that month in Chicago. The draft, set for June 25, will also likely be postponed. Days before, the league reached an agreement with the players union (NBPA) whereby basketball players will lower their salaries by 25% on average as of May 15.
Feeling of privilege
The NBA has yet to implement a large-scale covid-19 testing program for all teams, a preliminary step to return to competition. But it has given its approval to those teams that the health authorities allow them to carry out. The league avoids giving the feeling of privilege and prevents asymptomatic players from being tested in cities where the necessary resources are scarce.
The NBA was supposed to enter some 8,000 million dollars this season; 2,400 million come from the contract of its television rights with ESPN, ABC and TNT. That contract could be maintained if an agreement is reached to offer certain encounters in the future. If the remaining games are played to complete the season, it is certain that it would be behind closed doors. And that makes it unfeasible for the NBA and its 30 franchises to enter the 5,600 million provided by ticket sales, contracts with local television, sponsorships and marketing. The contracts with local televisions are disparate according to the teams. This season, for example, it is calculated that the Lakers were going to receive from Time Warner Cable about 170 million dollars and the Memphis Grizzlies, 20 million from Fox Sports. The sponsorship revenue of the 30 franchises was estimated to be $ 1 billion.
When the competition was suspended on March 11, 259 matches of the 1,230 expected in the regular phase remained to be played. The NBA calculates that each game supposes an average of income of two million dollars. In other words, more than 500 million dollars will stop entering. And to this, we must add the $ 250 million in revenue expected from the 84 playoff games, the average since the best of seven games since 2003 have been played. In total, there are more than $ 1 billion in losses. All plans, according to Silver, are subject to one principle: “The health and well-being of the players and of all those involved in games. That is paramount. There is still too much uncertainty to pinpoint how we will move forward. ”
Concentration or “imprisonment”
The idea of playing in one or two cities, probably Orlando and Las Vegas, in which the teams would concentrate is not to the liking of NBA players. Michele Roberts, executive director of the union, stated: “Are you going to surround the hotel with armed guys? Sounds more like imprisonment to me than anything else. ”
Sergio Scariolo, Spain coach and assistant coach at the Toronto Raptors, stated in an interview with the Efe agency: “It seems that, from a logistical point of view, it is the least uncomfortable to concentrate everyone in the same place, because eliminate travel. It may not be so easy after having a group of people practically locked up in their houses for three months, locked them up again, for another two or three months. It can become very, very heavy mentally. ”
Roberts also expressed doubts regarding the safety of the players. “We can do what they ask us to, yes, but what happens if one, two or 10 players test positive after the isolation time? Shall we close again? ” Silver replied that if a player tested positive once the League has resumed, the result of the daily tests would be expected to the rest of the players and in principle the competition would not be stopped, since they would be isolated in quarantine.
The NBA, in a first calculation, considers that it needs approximately 15,000 tests to meet the needs of its teams, but at the moment it advises not to test players and staff if they do not have symptoms of the disease to avoid violent reaction to the NBA to purchase and use kits.