Optimism is growing among team executives the NBA will find a way to complete the playoffs and crown a champion this season. Even if that means pushing back the start of next season until Christmas.
The question becomes, should the NBA play out the regular season, or at last a portion of it, or jump straight into the postseason?
Nets owner Joe Tsai, speaking last week at a Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders virtual event, suggested the feelings among owners is not unified on the regular season question (hat tip Nets Daily).
“The reality is everybody is still trying to figure things out with the hope that maybe we can reopen the season —the current season— because … think about this: the Los Angeles Lakers or the Milwaukee Bucks, they’re in first place when the season got suspended. There’s a chance of them going for the championship. Of course, they want to play. The players want to play. The ownership wants to play.
“Then, there are other teams, if you’re in 28th place, maybe this season isn’t that important. So there’s a difference of opinion among the owners as well.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has hinted at the same thing.
It makes sense: If you’re the Warriors or Timberwolves or Hawks or any other team well out of the postseason, what do you gain from the expense of putting your players, coaches, trainers, equipment managers, and everyone else (plus some of their families) into a bubble to play a handful of regular season games? So that the local television partner can get a few more games? For the owners, it’s an expense with no real revenue coming in, for them it might be simpler to negotiate with the RSNs.
Also, from Kerr and the Warriors’ perspective, what is the point of playing Stephen Curry — and pushing him to return, increasing injury risks — to play five or seven more games? Same with Trae Young in Atlanta or Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota, and that list goes on and on. The restart of the season after guys have not been able to work out regularly will lead to increased injury risk, even if the league provides a long ramp.
The timeline also is already tight. If the NBA wants to have a long-enough training camp (say 25 days) plus play out a nearly full playoffs — which reportedly would take 55 days — the league is already at 80 days in the bubble. To finish those playoffs by mid-September, say Sept. 13, means having teams starting training camps in late June. Any days added for regular season games makes the start date earlier. Does anyone think the data is going to say it will be safe to open training camps in early June?
Later on, Tsai echoed Adam Silvers’ words that the data and not dates will drive the NBA’s decisions. Right now, in the NBA league office, they are mapping out multiple scenarios for a restart. As they should be.
It’s just difficult to imagine a scenario where the data will say the league should open up and play enough regular season games to be meaningful. The playoff teams will need games to get into shape for whatever form the playoffs take, but to add 14 more teams to the bubble to play regular season games? That seems unnecessarily difficult.
And it sounds like some owners feel that same way.