The NBA’s governing owners were always scheduled to meet on the eve of the 2020 postseason. They were never, though, scheduled to be conducting that meeting sequestered in their homes, their NBA revenue vanished and the pathway to reopening their business as foggy as ever.
On the same day the league announced its players would see their pay docked by 25%, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver provided scant details about when — or whether — the league could resume the 2019-20 season.
“We are not in a position to make any decisions,” said Silver, sounding less optimistic than in previous interviews. “And it’s unclear when we will be.”
While the NBA continues to explore options, including so-called “bubble” scenarios where entire teams would be isolated, Silver said the lack of data about COVID-19 makes it impossible to start moving toward plans for a return — or a cancellation.
“My sense of the NBA team owners is that if they can be part of a movement to restart our economy that includes the NBA, they almost see that as a civic obligation. I think though on the other hand there is no appetite to compromise the well-being of our players,” Silver said.
“And so in terms of priorities, if you begin with safety, we’re not at a point yet where we have a clear protocol and a clear path forward where we feel that we can sit down with the players and say, this is a way to resume the season. ... We really haven’t engaged in discussions about whether or not ... it’s better or worse, to begin focusing on next season.”
The table remains full of ideas, though the financial realities are more concrete. Silver said the league is essentially generating zero revenue. Its top executives have taken pay cuts, as well as executives on a number of teams, including the Lakers, who asked high-level employees to take 20% salary reductions this month.
The league and the NBA players union Friday released joint announcements saying that players would begin receiving 25% less on their paychecks, beginning May 15. Cancellations could mean even more money could be at stake.
A return to play, Silver said, is tied to factors like a reduction in new COVID-19 cases, the availability of wide-scale testing for the virus, vaccination and better treatments.
“And on top of that, you know, we’re paying close attention to what the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] is telling us on a federal level, and what these various state rules are in place. So there’s a lot of data that all has to be melded together to help make these decisions,” Silver said. “But I think that that’s part of the uncertainty. I think we’re not even at the point where we can say, ‘If only A, B and C were met, then there’s a clear path.’
“I think there’s still too much uncertainty at this point to say precisely how we move forward.”
Silver has been in discussions with federal government officials, including, reportedly, President Trump, about the importance of sports returning — not just as an economic booster but as a morale lifter.
Despite pushes to reopen parts of the country, Silver said he believes the NBA and other sports need to come up with a uniform plan.
“I think it’s clear in order to operate a league, other than maybe, you know, in some interim way, you need a consistent national set of standards,” Silver said. “I think that’s one of the things that has been discussed as part of our sports council, is that putting aside [whatever] that standard is, in order for us to operate our leagues, and our associations, there needs to be consistency.”