With play suspended since March 12 and lost revenue — for both players and teams — piling up at enormous rates, the NBA is considering any and all options to salvage any portion of the 2019-20 season. Each team has between 13 and 16 regular season games remaining, but almost all indications to this point have suggested that moving straight into the playoffs remains the most realistic goal.
Even that happening has been portrayed as a long shot at times throughout this hiatus, but as cautiously optimistic news begins to circulate about the possible slowing of the coronavirus spread, the NBA, in turn, might be getting its hopes slightly up that the season might not be lost after all.
When it comes to the prospect of saving this season in some form, sources say that optimism abounds in the ownership, player, agent and league office ranks.
In the interest of full transparency, I didn’t poll every owner, player or agent out there. Not even close. But in making the rounds with some of the more prominent people in those communities, I quickly found it apparent that there’s a shared goal of finding a way of finishing this campaign and a widespread sense that it’s still feasible. Somehow. Some way.
Without fans being present at games, of course.
Indeed, playing without fans is about the closest thing to a lock as any part of any potential scenario. A situation where everyone involved feels comfortable cramming 20,000 people into an arena is still a long way off. As we’ve also heard, playing all the games in a “bubble city” rather than in multiple locations around the country is likely. Las Vegas seems to be the front-runner for the NBA, according to Amick.
If the determination is made that the season will resume, and that it will happen in a single location, the scheduling then becomes the biggest question. Will there be a play-in tournament? Will the NBA cut its playoff field from the normal 16 teams to, say, eight teams? Will it go from seven to five or even three-game series? If time gets too tight, would a one-and-done format possibly be considered?
Surely a lot still has to be worked out, and none of it can likely happen until the ability to test for COVID-19, and get quick results, becomes a more viable option. The PR storm of testing a bunch of asymptomatic NBA people when regular people are still having trouble securing tests is not something the league wants, particularly after this gripe was voiced in the aftermath of Rudy Gobert’s positive test that had Jazz and Thunder players getting expeditiously tested at a time when it was nearly impossible for regular citizens to get a test done unless they were showing significant symptoms, and even then it was a challenge in some cases.
All that said, at the moment, it is starting to feel like finishing the 2019-20 NBA season in some capacity is becoming a more realistic option than perhaps it felt like a few weeks ago. This is fluid. Everything could change on a dime. But right now, this is great news.