NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
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Adam Silver updates players on return: No date yet (think June), no fans, but 7-game series

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Unlike the NFL’s “put our head down and plow ahead” strategy, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is going to gather every bit of information he can on the coronavirus and a return to play, try to build a consensus, and in the end not make a decision until he has to.

Which means don’t expect a decision on the return of this season until June, Silver told NBA players in a conference call Friday set up by the union.

The goal of the call was to give players an update on where things stand, and Silver was very transparent according to multiple people on the call who spoke to NBC Sports. Silver also was honest that the situation is still fluid as the nation struggles with the coronavirus (more than 1.2 million cases and 62,000 deaths, with both numbers still climbing).

The plans Silver discussed would be to have fan-less bubbles — likely the West in Las Vegas and the East at the Disney resort in Orlando — where the league could host games (maybe regular season games, but Silver added he hoped for 7-game playoff series) that would be televised.

NBC Sports has spoken to people in on the call, plus Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN had other details. Here are the key points:

• No decision on a return to play — and what form that would take — needs to be made until June.
• If this season resumes, there will be no fans at the games.
• If this season resumes expect games at one or two locations, with Las Vegas and the Disney resort at Orlando the spots Silver mentioned (however, other sites are on the table).
• To return there would need to be extensive testing — enough to have daily tests of players, ideally, Silver said, more than 10,000 total tests — and the ability to have those without taking tests away from cities/states where they are needed.
• If testing is often enough, a player who tests positive could be isolated without having to shut everything down.
• If the league restarts, there will be at least three weeks of a training camp before games begin.
• Silver said all 30 owners are willing to bring teams back for regular season games (there have been concerns from owners of teams well out of the playoffs about the point of the extra expenses). However, he admitted that as the lockdown heads into the summer it may not be possible to play enough games for teams out of the playoffs to catch teams already in, and the league could go straight to the postseason.
• It’s possible there will be no fans at games at the start of — or maybe through much of — next season if there is not a widely-available vaccine. Silver tried to make this very clear to players.
• The league is taking an unprecedented financial hit, with 40 percent of league’s revenue coming from fans in the form of ticket sales and game revenue, not to mention merchandise sales.
• That, and the television games lost this season, mean both the players and owners are going to have to make financial sacrifices, with Silver emphasizing that hard decisions are coming and he wants to work with players on those. But not everyone is going to be happy.

There were plenty of questions from players on the logistics of going back to play, the opening of team workout facilities, and more. The players were curious.

Silver was open but emphasized right now there are no hard-and-fast answers. As of today, there are not enough tests to restart play, and there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths in parts of the country, all of which makes it smarter to wait before making any decision.

Silver tried to paint an optimistic but realistic picture — games may return this summer, but the league will not be back to “normal” for years. If ever. And the coming changes will not be painless.


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
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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.


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
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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
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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

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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.