At one point, the NBA viewed Labor Day as a potential deadline for completing the current season.
But the odds of finishing the season that quickly – whatever they may be – shrink by the day.
Once all that happens, it could be time – or past time – to begin next season.
Adrian Wojnarowski, via ESPN:
They are more willing than ever to delay the start of next season.
And part of that reason is that might give them more time next year to be able to have fans in the building. But, next season, the fear of having to start the year in empty arenas. And if they were going to start in their normal time – mid-, late-October – it’s hard to imagine that there would be fans in the stands.
And so I think as much time as they can buy for themselves, I think the league is willing to do that right now. And they’re trying to look at everything. And this isn’t just “let’s figure out the next couple months and this season.” This is a two-, three-, four-year look moving forward.
Before going on hiatus, the NBA was approaching its most lucrative time of year – the playoffs. It’d be silly to cancel a postseason just to preserve a future regular season.
Especially when it’s unclear whether the next regular season would actually start on time.
More than a month after the hiatus began, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he didn’t know when his league would resume play and wouldn’t know soon. The coronavirus isn’t easily controlled. Another wave could undermine any plans.
But there’s value in finishing the current season. It’d bring satisfying closure and optimize revenue.
A complication of extending the current season through an indefinite delay: Owners could invoke force majeure only if canceling games. But players already agreed to have salary withheld. These issues – including how to handle player contracts when a season lasts longer than a year – are negotiable. Both sides are in it together, sharing nearly equally in revenue.
If the NBA finishes this season, it’d need an offseason for free agency and for players to rest. Odds are against that perfectly coinciding with the typical June-September break.
The league could permanently shift its calendar. Otherwise, the NBA could also gradually shift back toward an October start as necessary over several years. Perhaps, the season could begin a few weeks earlier each year until back to normal. Temporarily reducing the season from 82 games could also be part of that process.
Fans will return when fans return. The NBA can probably resume play before fans can safely attend (and maybe even longer before they want to). The league can’t wait around for that. There’s too much money to be made through television.
And there’s the most TV money to be made in the playoffs.
When the NBA can return, it should be with a lead-up then the postseason. Whatever that means for future seasons, so be it.