- CNBC says some league executives and player agents are urging the NBA to cancel the rest of the 2019-20 season
- Lakers star LeBron James strongly refuted the report
- Season has been on hiatus since March 11
It feels like years have passed, but it has still only been a month-and-a-half since the NBA suspended operations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The league became the first American pro sports league to halt play after one of its players, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, tested positive.
While many around the league are still hoping to be able to resume play at some point in order to finish the current season, there is still plenty of skepticism around the idea. There is still no firm timetable for the NBA to return to action, and the clock is obviously ticking.
Had the season progressed as originally scheduled, the playoffs would already be underway. The draft is still scheduled to take place in June, and it’s very likely to be conducted virtually, just as the NFL draft was last week.
Calls to Cancel
It has gotten to the point to where some league executives are reportedly urging the league to just cancel the remainder of the season. CNBC’s Jabari Young reported Thursday that some team executives have gotten frustrated by the lack of communication from the league, and they are urging for commissioner Adam Silver to cancel the current season so that teams can begin early preparations for the 2020-21 campaign.
There is an awful lot of money on the line for the NBA if the season cannot resume. Teams split television revenue from national outlets every year while also earning substantial amounts as a result of their local TV deals. Cancelling the rest of the season would hurt the teams that rely on that TV money the most.
The NBA’s revenue sharing policy is designed to ensure that every franchise is profitable, but some teams are still losing money every year. A source told Young that one Western Conference team has already lost $50 million this season alone. As a result, some of the team’s executives are not overly eager to relaunch the current campaign.
Teams to Withhold Some Player Salaries
Starting in May, the NBA and the Players’ Association agreed to let teams withhold a quarter of player salaries in a cost-saving move. One of Young’s sources said, “What owners are saying is, ‘If we return, where is the revenue that is going to justify the additional cost of returning?’ They are looking at the cost side versus the revenue side. What revenue comes in now?”
The league has reportedly considered a number of different proposals in an attempt to restart the current season. It is highly unlikely that fans will be allowed to attend games in person when they do return. A day after the NBA decided to pull the plug, the Golden State Warriors had been scheduled to host the Brooklyn Nets in a game without fans in San Francisco.
Some have floated the idea of quarantining all players within the same city in order to safely return. Las Vegas was one of the original potential sites considering the city has no shortage of vacant hotel space. On Wednesday, it was reported that the NBA is also looking into the viability of resuming the season at the Disney World property in Florida, which has ample lodging and enough gyms to theoretically host games.
LeBron Refutes Cancellation Report
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James refuted the idea that teams are pushing to cancel the season early:
Saw some reports about execs and agents wanting to cancel season??? That’s absolutely not true. Nobody I know saying anything like that. As soon as it’s safe we would like to finish our season. I’m ready and our team is ready. Nobody should be canceling anything. 👑
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 30, 2020
James and the Lakers have a lot on the line, of course. Los Angeles currently owns the best record in the Western Conference, and they would have home-court advantage until the NBA Finals if the playoffs started today.
An NBA spokesperson issued a statement to CNBC that said, “It is the responsibility of the league office to explore all options for a return to play this season. We owe that to our fans, teams, players, partners and all who love the game. While our top priority remains everyone’s health and well-being, we continue to evaluate all options to finish this season. At the same time, we are intensely focused on addressing the potential impact of Covid-19 on the 2020-21 season.”
It remains to be seen how the NBA would proceed with its offseason if the current season winds up being fully cancelled. The free agency period is still scheduled to get underway in July. The NBA Summer League, which takes place in Las Vegas every summer, is also still on the schedule.
If the league winds up restarting the 2019-20 season, that may push back the beginning of the 2020-21 season. The NBA season usually starts in late-October.