Will the NBA end at Disney World? In Las Vegas? The insights of an impending decision

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For a time, the concentration in Las Vegas was the most popular idea among the proposals managed for the resumption of the NBA: a city that served as a bubble for several teams to fight in the playoffs, gathered in a quarantine between different casino hotels and interconnected stadiums.

It’s been a while since the idea was unveiled, and those who have a chance to talk to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver still skeptical about it. You still need to convince him that playing concentrates in Las Vegas is the best idea. In the opinion of some of the most influential veteran star players in the league, that is a reassuring concept, as they remain concerned about the possibility that some younger teammates may have difficulty maintaining the patience necessary to maintain a strengthened environment. bubble in Las Vegas.

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While confronting situations ranging from the attempted resumption of the league to the need to negotiate various economic and competitive aspects, Silver must maintain a close partnership with the National Association of Basketball Players (NBPA), the union that safeguards the rights of NBA athletes. Today, more than ever, team owners and players need to find a level of cooperation and permanent consensus. Both parties remain intertwined in their goal of restarting and rethinking the future of the sport.

Around the NBA, an overwhelming majority of high-level executives remain upbeat and optimistic about the possibility that basketball may resume the season. Despite this, the road is still full of obstacles. If there is a lesson that Silver has learned regarding the impact caused by the coronavirus, it is that the pandemic has forced different leaders from all areas to explore contingency plans on contingency plans, to rethink everything and reassess it for the umpteenth time. .

Silver, resistant to setting timelines for the most important decisions awaiting the NBA world, set May Day as a starting point. No significant decision would be reached before that date. Inside and outside of the NBA, there is a sense of unease about Friday’s arrival … and the decisions that must be made sooner rather than later.

As the general manager of an NBA team expressed regarding the challenge Silver faced in the current climate: “It is difficult to lead by consensus in the midst of a crisis.”

At the moment, the NBA continues shuffling different tentative venues. The MGM Grand hotel and casino complex has been one of several candidates who have presented a plan to serve as a new home to the NBA (and perhaps also to the WNBA) with a group of three related hotels, according to sources linked to the negotiation. Some have proposed plans to concentrate the league between different regions. The feasibility of using the training complexes of the different teams has been discussed. The possibility of establishing Walt Disney World in Orlando, which has different basketball facilities and several hotels, has gained momentum.

Taking advantage of the conjuncture of the pandemic, according to sources, the matches played without the presence of fans could be captured with robotic television cameras, which allow to show innovative angles and closer to the action. Relators and television commentators could narrate the encounters from remote sites. Discussions have included the feasibility of teams maintaining only essential personnel on-site, the total of which could range from 30 to 35 people, including players.

Silver has reiterated to the teams their willingness to end the season by proclaiming a champion team. Since then, if the NBA commissioner’s office had had doubts that the decision-making process would be painful and divisive in these difficult times, this past weekend served as a reminder of the in-depth analysis to which all and each of your decisions. The process of reopening the practice complexes, so that the players could do short, one-on-one practice, which is simple in theory, ended up becoming a heated verbal exchange between league executives and the respective teams.

With the training complexes closed, aside from closed access to virtually any physical activity center with the exception of private home gyms, the NBPA shared with league executives the players’ anxiety about the likelihood of having access to the facilities of each team. Fear was expressed at the possibility that players would begin their exodus to unauthorized gyms, after the reopening of various economic activities in states such as Georgia and Florida.

While the NBA was defining with various health agencies and medical experts the details regarding the precautions and processes necessary for the teams to reopen practice complexes in the markets that have initiated the de-escalation of restrictions and mandatory confinements, the commissioner’s office disclosed the generalities of a plan late Saturday through a memo addressed to nearly half of team owners. ESPN released the news in a matter of hours. Almost immediately, NBA management could sense the teams’ rejection of the idea. The general managers of different franchises spent the days of Saturday and Sunday exchanging impressions with each other and with the NBA itself over the phone; trying to understand the purpose of the idea, its tentative execution schedule, how the different security aspects would be treated … as well as the different alternatives that could be handled by teams with headquarters other than the selected markets.

For the day of Monday, after having conversations with the different teams, the NBA rescheduled the tentative resumption of practices for May 8, giving the teams a memorandum of 16 pages, in which it established the necessary procedures so that the players They can go back to the training complexes.

Silver has insisted, both publicly and privately, that he cannot try to get his league to collect tests for the coronavirus to resume a basketball season if the general public and medical professionals do not have massive access to said exams. Once the NBA shared with the teams its guidelines regarding the protocols to follow for players to return to training, it prohibited the practice of screening tests for players unless they show symptoms of COVID-19, as indicated sources.

The NBA has calculated requiring a total of approximately 15,000 tests from the season’s resumption until its tentative conclusion, sources say. A number of manufacturing companies can assure the NBA of the provision of such tests, but they cannot guarantee to the American public the full satisfaction of the requirements of the general population.

Obviously, finance will also play a major role in making any decision. The NBA must weigh the financial consequences of resuming a shortened season … or canceling the remainder of the tournament entirely. The return of wages received by players due to the cancellation of matches, by invoking the force majeure clause of the current collective agreement, will mitigate the financial impact of the losses assumed by the team owners. The profits generated by the national television rights contracts will continue to reach the franchises, with the warning that the NBA must seek ways to correct the lost inventory of games and sponsorships to compensate the different networks.

The NBA increased its lines of credit by $ 650 million, to total $ 1.2 billion in debt capacity, thus seeking to protect its cash flow; and it could well request a new increase, according to sources.

Silver’s challenge lies not only in saving the season, but also in limiting the financial damage that will be felt for years to come. The commissioner must consider consequences that go far beyond the geographical aspects necessary to end a committed 2019-20 season, also including the schedule for the upcoming campaign.

Within the NBA there is support for the idea of ​​a 2020-21 season to start in December, lasting until the end of July or August, according to sources. Silver has begun preparing teams to take on the possibility of delaying the start of the next tournament, which would help to manage the concerns felt around the league in the face of the probable long-term consequences that go beyond finishing the current one or not. season.

The longer the NBA takes to start the next tournament, the more likely teams will have the presence of fans in the stands again, especially if we take into account the projections handled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States (CDC) for a possible second wave of viral infections. Population fears of filling a stadium (even adhering to social distancing guidelines in the stands) will remain present without a vaccine or treatment, especially in the regions of North America most affected by the virus.

Until then, the internal debate in the NBA ran between committees and more committees: team owners’ committees to analyze economic issues, committees to analyze aspects related to television and media rights, and the traditionally influential competitiveness committee, made up of team owners, general managers and coaches.

Periods come to an end, members rotate, but the current crisis prompted the NBA to make a remarkable decision regarding its competitiveness committee, regaining the intellect and credibility of two members whose terms had recently ended. : RC Buford, Chief Executive of the San Antonio Spurs and Masai Ujiri, President of the Toronto Raptors.

This group has become a consulting panel that helps define the planning necessary for the tentative return to the courts. For example, when Brad Stevens, who is one of the committee members, devises a detailed timeline for resuming training camps, it becomes an idea that is shared, analyzed, and discussed. There is no shortage of ideas among the NBA community; but effective solutions are something else.

Today, more than ever, Silver’s mandate is to collect all the information and synthesize it into decisions. Almost two months have passed since the suspension of sports activity and the urgency grows for the NBA to finalize an action plan. The calendar marks, as of today, the month of May. Sooner rather than later, the time has come for tough decisions for the NBA commissioner.

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