The NBA suspended its season so abruptly on Wednesday due to the coronavirus outbreak that a long-term plan was not yet in place for potentially resuming play when it was safe. Now, the details of the plan being formed are beginning to trickle out. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appeared on “Inside the NBA” on Thursday and revealed that the league’s current suspension would last at least 30 days.
The situation will be re-assessed from there with the possibility that the season is resumed down the line. If it is, the commissioner also revealed that it could potentially come without fans in the building. Little is known at the time, and the NBA is preparing for a period of uncertainty.
“Even if we’re out for a month, if we’re out for six weeks, we can still restart the season,” Silver said. “It might mean the Finals take place in July or late July. Just my feeling was it was way premature to suggest we had lost the season.”
In addition to his statements on TNT, Silver posted an open letter to fans. Within it, he described the situation in a bit more detail, explaining again that the league hopes to resume the season if it is possible. Additionally, he explained if games are indeed canceled, or played without fans present, teams will work with fans on either refunds or credits for future games.
Theoretically, a 30-day suspension with an immediate return means the season would resume on Saturday, April 11. On the initial schedule the league was operating under before the virus forced them to audible, the regular season was set to end on April 15. The league then would have taken two days off before opening the playoffs on Saturday, April 18.
When asked if the season could possibly be canceled altogether, Silver replied, “Of course it’s possible. I just don’t know more at this point.”
There is no telling what a resumed season might look like if the NBA were to pick things back up in 30 days. The simplest possibility would be to just pick up the regular season where it left off. The NBA could then push the schedule back fully by one month, using the crisis as an opportunity to test how well its games would perform financially later in the summer. That is an idea that has been floating around the NBA world since before the virus became a pandemic.
The other possibilities would include a truncated and reorganized regular season or simply ending the regular season entirely and immediately jumping to the playoffs. The issue with doing that, though, is that asking players to immediately jump from a month with no basketball right into playoff-intensity basketball would likely lead to injuries and poor play. The league would at least need to build time into the schedule for a second training camp or some exhibition games. In that sense, having some form of regular-season basketball ahead of the playoffs would be essential.
There is, of course, the chance that the season doesn’t resume at all. If the spread of the virus gets bad enough, the league could simply declare the season over. The NBA has named a champion every year since 1947, the second-longest streak among professional sports behind the NFL, which has done so every year since 1933 (though in fairness, the Super Bowl in its current form was not created until 1967.)
At this point, there is no way of knowing which option will ultimately be chosen. All that can be done now is prepare for the worst and hope that the disease can be managed well enough not only for basketball to resume, but for the American public to remain safe.