Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Orlando reportedly ‘clear frontrunner’ but Las Vegas, other cities still in play to host NBA return

Leave a comment

After talking to people around the league about an NBA return, this is my best guess for what it looks like: Teams host three-week training camps at their own facilities, then travel to Orlando and maybe Las Vegas — both cities could be home to games — for a handful of regular season games (and maybe a preseason/exhibition game or two), followed by the playoffs, all in a fan-less environment where players can eat, sleep, and play games in one location.

Orlando has jumped to the front of the line for host cities if the league returns, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

However, literally every part of the above scenario is still on the table and could be different. Nothing is set in stone.

That includes using Orlando (the Walt Disney World Resort) as the “bubble” city. The NBA will want to see rates for the virus falling in those areas, but data out of Florida is not entirely reliable.

Other cities outside Las Vegas (an MGM hotel facility, likely the Mandalay Bay) remain in play to host games, but after those two other cities are on the second tier of options and all have flaws as well. Phoenix was a city one source mentioned to me. Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer mentioned Houston or the idea of playing games in each team’s arenas — although the league still wants the games centralized.

Other locations are also under consideration, including Houston, multiple sources say. In downtown Houston, Toyota Center, the Rockets’ home arena, neighbors the George R. Brown Convention Center; combined, they have the facilities necessary to serve as a neutral site to host games. It remains possible that teams could play games in their own arenas… But playing games at a neutral site makes it easier to control variables—the more people involved, the greater the risk. With travel comes the inclusion of pilots, drivers, and hotel workers. Players and staffers would be living with family members or roommates, all of whom can’t be tracked by the league. Hosting the rest of the season at a neutral site would create less risk, though it remains to be seen what the league and players union will agree on. No matter where games are played, thousands of swabs and tests for players, coaches, and other personnel will be needed.

There is risk no matter what Adam Silver and the NBA chooses; the question becomes which one has the least risk. As noted above, while a lot of players like the idea of something closer to a regular NBA season — staying in their homes, traveling to games in other cities — that seems less and less likely this season because of the challenges.

Whatever the scenario for a return ends up being, it all hinges on testing. The league needs to be able to procure 15,000 tests or more — without taking those away from hotspots for the virus where they are in need — and be able to test players regularly, maybe daily. The only way any centralized location works to host games is with extensive testing — not just of players, but of coaches and team staff, plus hotel/resort workers — and if someone tests positive contact tracing and quarantine would follow.

Just know that while Orlando is the most likely places games take place, like everything around the coronavirus, no plan can be locked in yet.

Report: NBA group stage could include 24 teams

Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Bulls guard Zach LaVine
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The initial report on the NBA resuming with a group stage presented a 20-team scenario. There’d be four groups with five teams each – one from each tier of the current standings:

  • Tier 1: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers
  • Tier 2: Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat
  • Tier 3: Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, 76ers
  • Tier 4: Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic
  • Tier 5: Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs

Teams would play each other team in its group, and the top two finishers in each group would advance to an eight-team tournament (effectively the second round of the playoffs, though without conference splits).

But that format could apparently include four more teams.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

In brief, per several sources who have seen the league’s proposal: The NBA could take 20 (or 24) teams and divide them into groups

The simplest way to expand to 24 teams would be adding a sixth tier then forming four groups of six. That’d mean adding:

  • Tier 6: Suns, Wizards, Hornets, Bulls

Bleh.

The more games the NBA holds, the more money the league will make. But the more people involved, the more risk of someone contracting and spreading coronavirus. It’s a fine line, and the league has sought a middle ground.

Phoenix, Washington, Charlotte and Chicago strike me as too lousy to include. Those teams are well outside the normal playoff race, and there’s no good reason to believe they would’ve made a late push.

In this environment, they might have shot, though. Coronavirus increases variability. Players have had differing access to resources and differing motivation to train during the hiatus. Once play resumes, positive tests could be scattered randomly. Would anyone view the Suns, Wizards, Hornets or Bulls as deserving of a berth in the eight-team tournament? If one of those four teams qualified, that’d probably just show the setup was flawed.

The fairest way to set the playoffs is with 20 teams, depending on structure. Resuming with just 16 teams wouldn’t be that far behind. The highest financial upside comes with all 30 teams, but that seems infeasible.

Setting the line at 24 teams seems like the worst of most worlds – including four bad teams that wouldn’t generate much interest but would threaten to disrupt everything else.

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.