Due to the continued spread of the coronavirus, the NBA is nowhere near resuming play. There have been discussions about far-fetched schemes that include playing in the Bahamas or another centralized location, but nothing like that is imminent, and even if the league does end up finishing the 2019-20 season, it will likely be shortened in some way.
While no official decisions have been made, the league and the players are preparing for the likely scenario where regular season games have to be canceled. Part of that process is figuring out the money. No games, no fans and no broadcasts mean much less revenue and less pay. The two sides are currently holding discussions for the possibility of the league holding 25 percent of the players’ remaining salaries for this season in an escrow, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
The NBA continues to be hopeful that there will be a resumption of some part of the regular season and playoffs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but the uncertainty surrounding the league’s ability to fulfill its full 82-game regular season will ultimately be a financial cost that’s shared among owners and players.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement maintains that players lose approximately 1 percent of salary per cancelled game based on a Force Majeure provision, which covers several catastrophic circumstances, including epidemics and pandemics.
Once there’s a cancellation of games, the Force Majeure is automatically triggered under the language of the CBA.
The main reason the two sides are trying to work this out ahead of time is because it will be simpler for everyone involved. If they don’t come to an agreement to alter the payment schedule, players would continue getting paid in full. However, if games officially get canceled at a later date, the collective bargaining agreement states that players would have to pay that money back.
Understandably, no one at the league office wants to go through the legal headache of recouping money from players, and the players aren’t going to want to send back money that’s already in their bank accounts. As of now, the league has committed to paying players in full through their April 1 paychecks.
There are some other hurdles to clear, including what to do about players on shortened pay schedules, but those are secondary to an actual agreement on whether or not the players will allow some of their money to be withheld upfront.