When the NBA suspended its season on Wednesday due to coronavirus, commissioner Adam Silver initially set a 30-day timeline. One month from the stunning decision to postpone all games, the league would reevaluate the outbreak of the virus and its ability to safely resume its season, with or without fans in arenas, before deciding what to do. Things got a whole lot grimmer on Sunday, though, when the CDC recommended that all gatherings of at least 50 people be postponed for eight weeks.
With that recommendation in mind, the NBA is reportedly looking further down the line. The league is beginning to view mid-to-late June as the best-case scenario and is scouting arena dates in August, which would likely be when the later rounds of the postseason were played, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Additionally, the G League is expected to cancel the remainder of its season, and the players have been informed that they would be paid for all scheduled games, per Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews.
An NBA game obviously includes far more than 50 people even without fans in the arena. Teams can have up to 17 players each with them on the bench, and then there are coaching and medical staffs, broadcasters and any other essential personnel in the building.
If the league were to pick back up in June, it would not necessarily be in typical arenas. The league is considering using smaller venues in the same cities to combat the emptiness of a giant stadium, including practice facilities, according to Wojnarowski. Doing so would create the potential for unique television angles.
The league is doing everything in its power to resume down the line if it is at all possible. Players have been asked to enforce social distancing, and if they travel out of their home market, they must disclose their whereabouts and remain home, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. These steps at least theoretically make it harder for more players to contract the illness, and a resumption of the season while NBA players are still sick would be impossible.
If the NBA were to resume in mid-to-late June, it would likely have to reconsider the manner in which it picks things back up. With over a month of regular-season games left on the original schedule and two months of playoffs, picking up in June could force the Finals into September. Throw in time for a second training camp to help get players back into shape and the schedule in its original state would simply be impossible to manage. The implication of looking for arena dates in only August is that the NBA would truncate the remainder of its season in some way.
The simplest option would be to simply eliminate the end of the regular season and begin the postseason with the current standings. Spencer Dinwiddie suggested a bold alternative on Twitter: a 30-team tournament for the championship that would incorporate regular-season standings as seeding.
Nothing is certain at this point except for the obvious: the NBA season will not finish in the manner that we are accustomed to. It will either be canceled outright or altered in some drastic manner. How exactly it would be, we can’t yet say, but Wojnarowski’s report suggests that the league is doing everything in its power to try to find a way to finish the season.