The NBA came to the forefront of the United States’ response the COVID-19 pandemic when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive on March 11. As games were being played, news broke that the league would be canceling games, and not long after, suspending the entire season. More sports leagues around the country followed suit in the following days, including the NHL, MLB and PGA Tour.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in interviews right after the stoppage that the suspension would last at least 30 days. But with those 30 days nearing an end, that number is looking to be much higher as the total cases in the US continue to exponentially grow far larger than any other country in the world.
China delays restart of basketball league
The Chinese Basketball Association had plans to resume its league as early as this week, but those plans had been pushed further and further back until the Chinese government announced on Tuesday that all sporting leagues needed to be delayed indefinitely. It’s certainly not a positive sign for the NBA, as assumedly officials would’ve taken notice of the CBA’s plans to resume play with no fans and all teams playing in one or two cities. Teams were expected to alternate play in round robin style with all players having their temperatures checked multiple times per day. All CBA players had been called back to the country recently to quarantine for 14 days to get ready for training camp. Those players included former NBA players Lance Stephenson and Jeremy Lin.
Now the issue is just how soon the NBA could reasonably return along with how many games could be played to allow for a proper offseason. Teams were forced to shut down their practice facilities on March 19, meaning many players have essentially been quarantined for two weeks now.
Targeting the summer months
Any announcement of resuming play would mean a decent amount of time needed afterward to get players back on their feet with practicing and scrimmages. With cases still growing uncontrollably, such an announcement of play resuming seems to be quite far away. All of this has led to many officials expecting mid-to-late June as a best-case scenario for an NBA comeback. Those dates are usually when the NBA Finals are ending. In addition, teams were reportedly told to search for arena date openings deep into August.
NBA teams had between 15-20 games remaining on the schedule when the season was suspended. Though there were hopes all games would be played, that scenario seems impossible at this point. That seems to be the mindset of the league and players as well, as news broke on Wednesday that the NBA and the NBA Players’ Association are working on a deal that would withhold up to 25 percent of players’ remaining salaries in a league escrow if games are to be canceled. Players were paid normally for their April 1 paychecks, but the two sides are hoping to make an arrangement before the April 15 paychecks. If no deal is made, players will receive their normal paycheck on the 15th, but players would have to eventually pay back their salary based on how many games are canceled.
Playoffs likely to be shortened
With all of the current news known, the mostly likely scenario seems to be the NBA coming back in late June or July and playing a few regular season games – enough for the players to get warm – before a potentially shortened NBA Playoffs. That could mean using a best of three in the first round and expanding from there. Silver has reportedly encouraged the league to be innovative with ideas to get players back on the court as soon as possible with a setting that still allows games to be broadcasted. While there will be waiting for any news of that, the likelihood of any NBA games at regular arenas with fans in attendance before summer seems to be low.