Written by Chris Kubala
The NBA has been on pause since March 12 after Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert of the Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus. Lately, the league has gained traction toward a potential return with the league’s Board of Governors slated to vote later this week to approve commissioner Adam Silver’s return to play concept with a potential starting date of July 31. We know where the league will play as the reports are that the collection of teams will meet in Orlando, likely at the Wide World of Sports Complex on the grounds of Walt Disney World. The one thing we’re not totally sure of at this point in time is how the league will restart, as far as the number of teams involved and how things unfold from there.
There have been growing reports that there will be an expanded postseason this year, be it 20 or 22 teams more than likely. With that in mind, there have been growing reports that small-market teams want to have a restart with all 30 teams on the floor, at least for a short stint, in order to avoid potential financial issues. The big issue with that of course, besides safety protocols, is the fact that some teams that are lottery bound and well outside the playoff chase aren’t quite as invested as others at this point. A prime example of that thought process is Golden State, who saw Steve Kerr say last month that his team was already in offseason mode:
“It feels like the offseason. And, in fact, we had a Zoom call, Bob Myers and I got on a Zoom with our players, our whole roster last week. And it was just a chance to check-in, but it was also a chance for Bob to update the players on his contact with the league and the latest news, but it also kind of felt like our annual team exit meeting. Our coaching staff and I have been undergoing staff evaluations, offseason plans, so we are absolutely in offseason mode right now.”
Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett and Atlanta owner Tony Ressler are among the owners of smaller-market teams that are intent on getting Silver and the league to consider a return of all 30 teams. The thought process of those teams are centered around the fact that those teams could lose a ton of money. With no games between March and potentially December, it would cost teams financial resources and the ability to have their players develop, especially with their younger guys. There have been talks about mandatory summer camps and regional fall leagues of small groups of teams in order to try and bridge the gap between games. It’s unclear how those will be received by the small market teams. An Eastern Conference executive had this to say about the situation:
"The message was something bigger, reminding people that some teams can't just reopen the doors in nine or 10 months and so easily sell tickets or a sponsorship without having played basketball for that long.”
Whether or not the league finds a way to work with those teams in smaller markets and come up with a way to soothe their potential issues remains to be seen. It will be a task to try and offset the potential lost revenues of not playing. While the summer camps and the fall leagues could help from the player development standpoint, it’s unclear as to what that will do in order to help keep the fan base interested during that extended down period. There’s not a long timetable before the vote is scheduled to take place. It could prove to be too tall a task to successfully undertake at this stage but at least Bennett and Ressler got their feelings on the matter out to the league’s executives.