Moments before the March 11th tipoff of the Utah Jazz versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, Rudy Gobert, the reigning defensive player of the year, tested positive for coronavirus. This diagnosis was the catalyst for the NBA to suspend their season until further notice. Weeks later, the NBA remains in a holding pattern on future plans. Of all professional sporting leagues, the NBA may be best suited to resume play and finish the current season. This is because the league was nearing the conclusion of the regular season and the league can isolate all playoff teams at one location for the duration of the month and a half postseason. Disneyworld and Seattle have both been mentioned as potential isolation sites for the playoffs. The fee associated with the entry of an expansion team may help with this year’s loss of league revenue, and Seattle has been advocating for the return of professional basketball since the departure of their beloved Supersonics in 2008.
The main challenge that needs to be solved prior to the resumption of play. First, the league needs to collectively bargain pending coronavirus-related issues with the NBA Player’s Association. To the players, most important among these unresolved issues is how the league will prioritize their health in the age of COVID-19 as well as how the league will pay current and future salaries. Since the salary cap is based off the league’s annual revenue, the extended absence of fans from league arenas may pose a challenge to the conventional salary cap formulas. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has previously noted that approximately four out of every ten dollars of the league’s revenue comes from money spent in arenas. As a percentage, in-arena revenue is only second to the revenue generated from television licensing rights to live games.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the Western Conference was shaping up to be a fierce battle between the two occupants of Los Angeles’ Staples Center. Known as the hallway rivalry, a seven game playoffs battle between the Lakers and Clippers for Western Conference supremacy had the potential to be as entertaining as the NBA Finals. In the Eastern Conference, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks were on pace to revenge last year’s conference final loss to the Toronto Raptors. However, the 7th seed Brooklyn Nets may become a contender with the potential return of 10-time all-star Kevin Durant. Regardless of which superstar leads their team to victory, the league will not resume play until an ironclad plan has been put into place to protect the health of all professionals involved.
Wojnarowski, A. (2020, April 30). Inside the NBA's urgent decisions as it tries to finish this season. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/29119309/inside-nba-urgent-decisions-tries-finish-season