The NBA is reportedly increasingly open to delaying next season, allowing more time to finish this season (which is suspended due to coronavirus).
But not everyone supports that plan.
Team executives are starting to feel the pressure, frustrated with the lack of information from the league and pushing for an outright cancellation of the season so everyone can focus on safely resuming play next season.
NBA team executives and players’ agents spoke to CNBC in recent weeks about the challenges in resuming play. They said team owners are concerned with liability issues and are conflicted about whether or not to give up on the current season.
With so much uncertainty still surrounding coronavirus, agents are also privately calling on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to cancel the remainder of the season.
“I’m surprised because [Silver] always errs on the side of caution and doing what’s right,” said one agent, who added he felt Silver would have decided to cancel by now.
Uncertainty can be distressing. This hiatus is already way longer than any in-season stoppage in NBA history. Canceling the rest of the season would provide resolution.
But then what?
It won’t necessarily be safe for play to resume next fall. Next season could get delayed WITH OR WITHOUT a swift resolution on the current season now.
Canceling the rest of this season would only wipe out the NBA’s most valuable time of year – the playoffs. We’ve spent all year gearing up for the postseason. That’s when interest peaks. And these executives and agents want to cancel the playoffs to prioritize another regular season? That’s a bad plan – especially because, again, there’s no guarantee with next regular season.
The current situation can be frustrating. The NBA’s false start on allowing teams to re-open facilities wasn’t ideal. There are complications with leaving open the current season indefinitely – mainly contracts that typically expire in June.
But there’s a pandemic happening. This isn’t going to be easy under any plan.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement gives owners and players a shared incentive to maximize revenue, as each side splits Basketball Related Income approximately 50-50. Contractual issues can be negotiated, as they already have been. Nothing generates revenue like the postseason. The playoffs are worth preserving.
I understand the concern about rushing players into unsafe conditions just to draw revenue. That already happened. But everyone has gotten smarter about the threat of coronavirus, and there’s no sign the league plans to repeat that mistake. We can be vigilant against that possibility without the season being canceled. Continuing the season doesn’t mean players will return to the court soon. The current season can extend as long as owners and players agree. Months, even years. And, once again, it won’t necessarily be safe to play when these executives and agents think next season would begin.
The executives and agents are being shortsighted. If the season were canceled, they’d temporarily feel better without that uncertainty looming over them.
But they’d still be stuck in a pandemic that leaves no certainty about when the NBA can safely return. And the lucrative playoffs wouldn’t be around the corner when play resumes.