While many sports leagues announced suspensions lasting for a matter of weeks, it is becoming apparent that the coronavirus outbreak may force much longer stoppages. According to ESPN, the NBA is already looking further out, with executives seeing mid-to-late June as the best possible scenario for when the league can resume play.
According ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, NBA officials have asked teams to look for arena dates stretching into August for potential playoff games. That includes smaller venues like practice facilities that might provide for more intimate settings should the games need to be played without fans.
CDC Recommendation Guarantees Long Delays for NBA
The NBA originally planned to suspend play for 30 days before re-evaluating the situation. But, with the CDC recommending the cancellation of all gatherings of at least 50 people for a minimum of eight weeks, it would be all but impossible to even begin thinking about playing again until sometime in May. Even without fans, more than 50 people are required to run an NBA game when teams, coaching staffs, officials, and medical personnel are all considered to be essential staff.
Wojnarowski cited sources who said that NBA owners are waiting to hear financial projections for how the shutdown and various restart scenarios will impact their bottom lines. They will likely see projections for a handful of different options, from shutting down the season entirely to having the playoffs with fans back in the arenas.
The effectiveness of social distancing and other efforts will impact how quickly larger group events can again become feasible, which would be necessary for even skeleton crew games to be put on by the league.
With the uncertainty surrounding the continued spread of coronavirus and its potential impact on communities across the country, the only thing for sure is that no one currently knows when games will — if ever — resume this season.
Durant Return ‘Not Very Realistic’
Delaying the season by up to three months does open up some intriguing possibilities. For instance, there is speculation that injured superstar Kevin Durant could use the time to rehab his Achilles tendon injury last June and rejoin the Brooklyn Nets for a delayed playoff run. The Nets are currently 7th in the Eastern Conference standings with a 30-34 mark. FanDuel Sportsbook lists the team at +6000 to win the NBA championship – a number that would shorten significantly with a healthy Durant on the roster.
Rick Kleiman, a longtime business partner of Durant, says that fans shouldn’t hold out for such a return though.
“Honestly, not very realistic from my standpoint, and not even spoken about,” Kleiman said on ESPN’s Golic and Wingo radio show. “I think that Kevin is going to figure out the space that he needs to be in to continue to rehab during this time. But even that is hard to answer at this point, with the new kind of rules that were put in place last night.”
The NBA suspended play after the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday prior to a scheduled game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.