NBA in Las Vegas
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Report: NBA could hold play-in tournament, shortened playoffs in Las Vegas

Leave a comment

The NBA is reportedly committed to finishing this season, which is currently paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What structure will the rest of the season take? That’s a difficult question.

But apparently momentum is building for centralizing play in Las Vegas.

Jabari Young of CNBC:

Las Vegas has emerged as the best location to resume the season, according to league executives.

The NBA could decide to cancel the remainder of its regular season and create a play-in tournament for lower-seeded teams to enter the postseason. The league could then set up a best-of-five series for the first round, before moving to a one-and-done tournament to determine the two teams that will play in the NBA Finals, which would also be a best-of-five, people familiar with the planning said.

The tournament and NBA Finals would be held in Las Vegas at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion, where the league hosts its annual Summer League events.

This leads to several questions:

  • Can the NBA keep players and everyone else involved from contracting coronavirus? If COVID-19 infiltrates this operation, it’d undermine everything.
  • Could fans attend these games? Significant gate revenue is being left on the table. Fans could theoretically have their temperature checked as they enter. However, presumably, these games would be held in smaller arenas only because fans wouldn’t be present.
  • How would fans feel about, not only an abridged postseason, but a strangely structured one? The series going best-of-five, best-of-one, best-of-one, best-of-five is not a natural progression. Making the Finals – the most meaningful series – longer is logical. Presumably, the first round would be longer because that’s the round with the most series. It’d be a way to increase revenue.
  • What type of shape would players be in? LeBron James warned against jumping straight into the playoffs without a regular season to tune up.
  • What would happen with local-TV contracts? Those are a big reason to finish the regular season.
  • How would a play-in tournament affect the draft order? At least the league, pushing for a permanent play-in tournament, has already considered that. But this situation would come with the added wrinkle of a canceled finish to the regular season, teams playing a varying number of games.
  • How would owners and players split revenue of the entire season? Canceling the rest of the regular season would seemingly allow the league to invoke force majeure and reduce salaries. But this new structure – along with everything else – would have to be negotiated by owners and players.

That’s a lot to answer. Still, this might be the best option.

There’s an obvious appeal to finishing the season in a centralized location. It’s probably the fastest way to resume play – and generate quick cash.

Extending the season longer could interrupt future seasons. It might be better to milk whatever revenue is possible from this cursed season and just move on.

An abbreviated postseason at a neutral site is nobody’s ideal. But that it’s even a possibility shows how dire this situation has gotten.

Michael Porter Jr.: Pray for both George Floyd’s family and police officers involved in ‘this evil’

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. and Knicks forward Maurice Harkless
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Several NBA players posted about George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer for about eight minutes.

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. struck a different tone than most.

Porter:

Knicks forward Maurice Harkless:

Harkless, whose dismay was shared by many, is a seasoned veteran. Porter has made made rookie gaffes.

But I’m uncomfortable criticizing someone for calling for prayer for anyone. For some, prayer can be effective way to cope amid tragedy. Many believe prayer can change the world.

Porter didn’t say prayer alone should be the solution. In fact, he called the situation “evil” and “murder,” seemingly suggesting the need for criminal justice, too.

Basketball Hall of Fame delays enshrining Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Spurs forward Tim Duncan
Harry How/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Basketball Hall of Fame originally planned to induct Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in August.

But coronavirus interfered.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of the board of the governors for the Hall, told ESPN Wednesday that enshrinement ceremonies for the Class of 2020, one of the most star-studded lineups ever which includes Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant, will be moved to spring of 2021.

Colangelo stressed there will be separate ceremonies for the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021, even though both events will now be held in the calendar year 2021. “We won’t be combining them,” he said. “The Class of 2020 is a very special class and deserves its own celebration.”

I’m so glad each class will be honored separately. Bryant, Duncan, Garnett and the rest of this class – Tamika Catchings, Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Patrick Baumann – deserve their own night.

So does Paul Pierce and whoever gets selected in the next class.

Life can end at any moment. Bryant’s death was a tragic reminder of that. But there’s no specific urgency here. The Hall of Fame should wait until it’s safe to hold a proper celebration of this class… then the next one.

NBA being sued for missed rent payments amid coronavirus shutdown

NBA Store
Jeenah Moon/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA has been sued by the owners of the building that houses the NBA Store, who say the league owes more than $1.2 million after not paying rent in April or May.

The league responded by saying it doesn’t believe the suit has merit, because it was forced to close the New York store due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBA Media Ventures, LLC is required to pay $625,000 of its $7.5 million annual fee on the first day of each month under teams of its lease with 535-545 FEE LLC, according to the suit filed Tuesday in New York.

The NBA entered into the lease agreement for the property at 545 Fifth Ave. in November 2014.

Counting other fees such as water, the owners of the building are seeking more than $1.25 million.

“Like other retail stores on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the NBA Store was required to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Under those circumstances, we don’t believe these claims have any merit,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “We have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to work directly with our landlord to resolve this matter in a manner that is fair to all parties.”

The NBA suspended play on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic and faces hundreds of millions of dollars in losses this season, even as it works toward trying to resume play in July.

NBA latest timeline has games starting in late July, early August in Orlando

Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Anyone hoping for a rapid return of the NBA is going to be disappointed (and hasn’t been paying attention to how Adam Silver operates).

The NBA continues to carefully move toward a return to games, likely with 16 or more likely 20 teams in Orlando at the Walt Disney World resort complex. Expect players to report in mid-July with games now looking like they start late July to early August, allowing more time for the league to get medical and testing protocols and equipment in place. This according to multiple reports, including Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reiterated that timeline. While Adam Silver and the NBA owners will be on a conference call Friday, no hard-and-fast timeline decisions are expected at that point.

The format for the NBA’s return also is not yet set, but momentum has shifted in the past couple of weeks away from bringing all 30 teams into the Orlando bubble/campus to finish some portion of the regular season. That would be too many people and too much risk for too little reward.

Instead, the restart likely will have either 16 teams — going straight into the playoffs — or 20 teams, with a play-in tournament of some kind (maybe a World Cup soccer-style group phase). And, as Marc Stein of the New York Times notes (and he is not alone), there is a push to have the clumped 9-12 seeds in the West — Portland, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Sacramento — be the four additional teams brought in (along with the 16 playoff teams).

Teams who last in the playoffs past the first round could be in Orlando for months, which is why the NBA will allow family members to come to Orlando for the later rounds, report Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne at ESPN.

Conversations have centered on the timing of family arrivals at the Walt Disney Resort, which are likely to start once an initial wave of teams are eliminated and the number of people within the league’s bubble decreases, sources said.

Family members would be subjected to the same safety and testing protocols as everyone else living in the NBA’s biosphere, sources said.

Considering how long players on contending teams could be in Orlando — from mid-July until mid-to-late September, and maybe longer — allowing family to join them is the right thing to do.

NBA Commissioner Silver is trying to make a return as safe as he can and build as much consensus as he can, although he will not get anything absolute in either case. It’s in his nature to move cautiously, especially through uncharted waters like these. The NBA will have games again this summer, but earlier timelines have proved to be a bit optimistic.