The NBA bubble — which has worked and gotten the league to the NBA Finals — may be a one-off.
The goal for next season is a January start with games being played in team’s arenas, even if fans are not yet filling the buildings, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in his annual address before Game 1 of the NBA Finals Wednesday.
“As for fans in seats, it’s certainly our goal, but it’s dependent on some additional advancements. Rapid testing may be the key here,” Silver said.
Silver refused to be locked down to any details — most people around the league expect a February start, or later — and said the league might have to return to a bubble, or hybrid-bubble, for part of next season. However, he hoped testing and technology would allow NBA games in NBA buildings, with players going back to their homes at the end of the night.
This is dependent on rapid testing and where the virus is in our nation as we get into December and January than it is on a vaccine.
“Based on everything I’ve read, there’s almost no chance that there will be a vaccine, at least that is widely distributed, before we start the next season,” Silver said. “So I do not see the development of a vaccine as a prerequisite.”
The other part of starting next season is figuring out the league finances and setting a salary cap. The league’s revenue took a serious hit with around 20% of home games canceled, then the playoffs delayed and moved to a bubble. Silver said salary cap and other negotiations are taking place between the NBA and the players’ union. The league has set a date for the 2020 NBA Draft — Nov. 18 — however, the start of free agency, training camps, and the tip-off date for next season are still open and being discussed.
“I don’t have expectations of labor issues… I think while no doubt there will be issues and difficult negotiations ahead, I think we’ll work them out as we always have,” Silver said.
Those are the future. For now, Silver was clearly proud that the bubble worked and that there could be a lesson there for the nation.
“The basic protocols that we’re all following are working,” Silver said. “I mean, the testing is only needed to demonstrate that at this point. By wearing a mask, by exercising appropriate protocols, hand washing, appropriate cleanliness, et cetera, by maintaining physical distance… that’s what’s working.”
Also of note from Silver’s press conference, he was asked about there being just four Black head coaches in the NBA right now after Nate McMillan (Indiana), Alvin Gentry (New Orleans), and Doc Rivers (L.A. Clippers), all were let go (there are currently six open coaching jobs around the league). Silver said he has had talks with teams that have had openings, making sure a diverse field of applicants is considered, but added the NBA has not thought of adding a “Rooney Rule” to the hiring process.
“I know we can do better,” Silver said.