Note to NBA: Stop trying to salvage the season
The NBA has crowned a champion each year since the league’s inception in 1946-47.
As time passes with no hint of when teams can begin practicing again, let alone playing, that streak might end at 73 consecutive seasons.
While NBA commissioner Adam Silver is still holding out hope that the 30 teams can play the final month of the regular season and then the playoffs, I can’t see how each club’s remaining 15 or 16 regular-season games can be salvaged — even if they are held at neutral sites with no fans in attendance.
Silver and published reports have indicated one option would be to complete the regular season, followed by the playoffs that would end sometime in August — as opposed to the NBA Finals typically concluding in mid-June — then push back the start of the 2020-21 season two months from late October to Christmas Day.
That would allow the 76ers, the other 29 teams and the players to recoup some of the TV revenue that they’ve been missing out on since the games came to a halt March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our revenue, in essence, has dropped to zero,” Silver told reporters during a recent conference call. “That’s having a huge financial effect on the team business and the arena business.”
Some estimates project the league’s lost revenue as close to $1 billion. That’s with a “b.”
The salary cap is determined by the players getting 51 percent of the NBA’s Basketball-Related Income (BRI), which includes everything from regular-season and playoff-ticket sales to national TV revenue, concessions and so on.
The lost revenue could lower the 2020-21 salary cap by $10 million or more. While teams are permitted to exceed the cap to re-sign their own free agents, it could limit the ability of teams to fit players from other teams under the cap.
I realize that the financial concerns are valid, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect to play what amounts to nearly another three months of basketball between the regular season and playoffs.
It’ll probably take two weeks for players to get into game shape again once social-distancing rules can be safely eliminated and they are permitted to practice.
A more realistic scenario — perhaps the only one — would seem to be for the postseason to be contested at one site — with Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City having been mentioned as one possibility. Seed the teams based on their current records, wash away the yet-to-be-played regular-season games and contest the seven-week playoffs in that fashion.
In that setup, the players would apparently stay in hotels and travel back and forth to the arena for games.
That assumes teams will be permitted to play again by July, which is far from a sure thing at this point.
What I don’t get is this: how would the league proceed next season if there is no champion until August?
If the league doesn’t shorten the 2020-21 campaign, then how would it be able to fit in the 82-game schedule? Would next year be trimmed to 55 games to make it work, which would mean less money for players? Would it be worth finishing this year if it affects the upcoming season(s)? The players, teams and Silver might think so now, but the answer could be different next spring.
It would be a shame if LeBron James and the Lakers or Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks wouldn’t have an opportunity to meet in the NBA Finals to decide who will succeed the Raptors as champions.
But there is no ideal solution to this unprecedented situation — only different options, none of which would make everybody happy.
Tom Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org; @TomMoorePhilly