NBA commissioner Adam Silver and team owners discussed delaying the start of next season until December due to complications with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski — an idea that is reportedly gaining traction among owners.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the NBA to suspend operations on March 11. The league currently doesn’t have any specific plans to resume play.
The NBA officially postponed both the draft lottery and scouting combine on Friday, both of which were scheduled to take place this month in Chicago. It did not delay the draft itself — which is currently scheduled for June 25 — however “there’s an increasing belief that it’s just a matter of time” before that happens, per Wojnarowski.
There were more than 1.1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Friday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 64,500 deaths attributed to the virus.
Most sports leagues in the country, including the NBA, have considered playing games without fans present upon return. The idea behind delaying the start of next season, per Wojnarowski, is to allow fans to be present for as much of the season as possible.
“If you start in December, that doesn’t mean the [fans] are coming back in December, but maybe they’re back in March,” one owner told ESPN.
While talks occurred on Friday, there are “no imminent plans” to make any decisions about next season now. Before that plan is made, the league will almost certainly need to determine how it will move forward with the remainder of the current season.
Growing support for a mid-December start
The idea to start the season in December isn’t a new one. One team official even floated it before the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said in March that he believes starting the season in mid-December rather than in mid-October would eliminate competition with most other professional sports leagues. Instead of competing with the NFL and college football for the first few months of the season, the NBA would be able to dominate the winter and summer — where Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour are, for the most part, alone in the sports world.
Doing so would push the NBA Finals to August, which would allow the season to conclude just before football starts again each fall.
“A big piece is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to enhance ratings,” Koonin said in March. “Sometimes, moving away from competition is a great way to grow ratings.
“If King Kong is at your door, you might go out the back door, rather than go out the front and engage in a hand-to-hand fight with King Kong. Many times, at the start of the NBA season, we are competing with arguably the best Thursday Night Football game with the NBA on TNT, our marquee broadcast, and we get crushed and we wonder why.
“It’s because at the beginning of the season, there’s very little relevance for the NBA. The relevance is now. That’s when people are talking about it.”
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