As the uncertainty grows, and science, economic and competitive elements collide, there’s one constant in the struggle to revive the NBA: Owners and players are delivering Adam Silver full room to operate, govern and make the decision on resuming play amid a pandemic. No power grabs, no factions, no public criticisms on the commissioner’s judgment.
Because the league office was warning and preparing owners and teams weeks before The White House, Silver earned an extra level of credibility on these issues of the virus. Silver doesn't underestimate the power of something else to set public perception of his league -- his superstars. His relationships and trust with star players, including NBPA president Chris Paul, have been the greatest factors in the league's labor tranquility since Silver ascended to replace David Stern.
Today, owners are championing testing and research studies. Sacramento's Vivek Ranadive has discussed the Israeli breathalyzer test for the virus with his peers, sources said. Boston co-owner Steve Pagliuca is monitoring a Harvard test study on possible saliva testing. And the owners understand something else too. Silver is the best messenger to reach players on the financial strain approaching the NBA. That's why a week ago, Silver was on the phone with players describing scenarios where revenue could plummet, where fans could slowly, if it all, return to NBA arenas as ticket buyers.
Eric Walden: Georges acknowledged that having the season shut down "was really tough for a lot of us." The dual-whammy of no basketball and not being able to go out in society as normal meant that, "Mentally, a lot of us felt trapped." Said he's started to feel better over the past 3 weeks.
Ramona Shelburne: After working with city, county, and state officials the Lakers are planning to re-open their practice facility tomorrow for voluntary, socially distanced workouts in accordance with NBA protocols, sources told ESPN.
Sarah Todd: At the Jazz practice facility, Niang called the person working out with him and following him around a "hygiene czar". Said that they are wiping down anything that his body touches and sanitizing constantly during the workouts.
Mark Medina: In a conference call, Lakers center Dwight Howard said he is based in Georgia. "I would love to go back to LA and start working out with the team, but I've been training here. Once everything opens up, I can travel on to LA to start working." Dwight said he would fly commercial
Appearing on ESPN’s The Lowe Post podcast, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he’s hopeful the team’s practice facility will open next week in advance of the suspended NBA season resuming in the coming months. “Massachusetts has been one of the slowest in opening things up. Our next phase is, we’ll open up our facility. We’re hoping to do it next week,” he told ESPN’s Zach Lowe. “It’s 1-on-1... one coach, one player. Coaches with masks and gloves. Players in the gym, disinfect the gym. I don’t think anybody’s afraid of that”
The NBA allowed teams to reopen practice facilities on Friday, though only two did at that time. Others have been slowly opening in the days since. There were still plenty of restrictions involved. Love said he was asked several questions upon arrival and had his temperature taken, and only parts of the facility were actually open. Every player had his own individual basket to work out on and had just one assistant coach to help — who was made to wear gloves and a mask.
“Our facility has been really odd because we have to do one guy to a basket and we have four main baskets at our facility, and everybody is in masks and gloves,” Love told Yahoo Sports on Thursday. “It’s really odd to have a rebounder in a mask, in these latex gloves, throwing passes and throwing you a ball. You almost have to put that out of your mind and act like it’s not even there. The players are the only people not shooting with the gloves on.”
“I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like getting back and playing with no fans or fans kind of scattered out through the arena. It's going to be really, really odd to see how sports slowly start to roll themselves out, but I think it’s needed,” Love told Yahoo Sports. “It’s just such a way to — even for us, too — get out of our own heads and just go and compete. Sport has a commonality to it that, it just plays itself out and has a unique brand of storytelling that’s unraveling right before your eyes. I’m fingers crossed for the season to resume.”
A league source told The Sacramento Bee the coronavirus shutdown has already taken a huge financial toll on the Kings, who are bracing for what might be tens of millions of dollars in uninsured losses. The source said the stoppage in NBA play and live events at Golden 1 Center is having a “tremendous impact to the bottom line,” saying “over half of the team’s revenue is generated from hosting ticketed events in the arena.”
The Kings said they intend to communicate the following to ticket holders via email by May 18: “While we await more information from the league regarding the 2019-20 season, it is our commitment to provide flexible options to ticket holders regarding impacted games. Tickets already purchased for a postponed Kings home game are eligible to be credited towards the 2020-21 season or a refund is available upon request.”
Team and league officials explain it is difficult to calculate the average price of an NBA ticket due to multiple factors, but some have attempted to do the math. Barry’s Ticket Service, Inc., an online ticket broker, estimated the average cost of a ticket on the secondary market was $89 during the 2018-19 NBA season. Using those figures, the NBA could lose more than $400 million in regular-season ticket sales.
Nick Kosmider: Will Barton says in an interview on the Nuggets’ social media channels that he has been one of the players working out at the team facility this week. Also said he’s been using a Peloton bike to help him stay in shape.
The 35-year-old basketball player, like everyone, has been self-isolating at home as the coronavirus pandemic continues. But once — or if — the NBA season restarts, Chris Paul tells PEOPLE he'll be prepared. "You know, it's funny, when I was home for that first week or two, and it was like, 'Man, this is so nice,' because I live in Oklahoma without my family, so it was like it's so nice to be here, see my kids, see my wife and everything," he explains. "And then after a couple of weeks, I woke up and I looked at my wife — and it was crazy — I told her, I said, 'Babe, I miss it. Like I miss playing basketball like I need to play basketball.' "
What about moving [the Nets] to a neutral site [in order to practice]? Too complicated, said the league source, and it hasn’t been discussed. How soon will the situation be resolved and if it isn’t, could the Nets work out elsewhere? At this point, no one is saying. Stay tuned.
As the NBA moves closer to a decision on what do with its suspended season amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Orlando Magic continue to play the waiting game. The Magic did not reopen their facilities Wednesday for voluntary individual player workouts as they had hoped. The team initially had planned to reopen Tuesday, then delayed opening a day as it waited for COVID-19 test results on asymptomatic players and staff who would be present for workouts.
Those pending results kept the holding pattern in place Wednesday, a team spokesman said. While the timetable for reopening remains fluid, the Magic anticipate having results in time for workouts to take place this week, possibly as early as Thursday, according to the spokesman.
Adrian Wojnarowski: NBA’s hopeful that 22 of the 30 franchises will have facilities open for voluntary workouts by Monday, sources say.
Texas’ professional sports teams want to resume playing games, Texas Sen. John Cornyn said Wednesday after participating in a video meeting with officials from many of the state’s major league franchises. But the likes of the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Mavericks, the Texas Rangers and others “don’t want to be sued into oblivion” or be “responsible for a public health outbreak” when they return to the field or court amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the senator said.
The senator also predicted that Americans are going to see “a lot more monitoring of people who come into public facilities for elevated temperatures, indicating that they have a fever,” along with “more widespread testing to give people the confidence they need.” “You can just imagine with the universities and the professional sporting events, that they need some confidence that what they’re doing won’t get them in trouble, either legally or from a public health standpoint,” Cornyn said. Cuban, while generally agreeing with the senator, disagreed on the point about temperature testing, explaining that “anyone can crush and eat a few Tylenol to beat any system.”
Larry Nance Jr. is one of the few NBA players who have been able to work out after teams were granted permission to reopen their training facilities, which have been closed nearly two months by a virus outbreak that has paused the season and placed its conclusion in peril. Nance returned to the Cavs' complex on Friday, and for two hours, the 27-year-old felt whole again. ''This is the longest I haven't played a game of basketball in my entire life,'' he said Tuesday on a Zoom conference call.
Nance, who acknowledged getting a coronavirus test out of ''panic'' in March, said that while the conditions are somewhat surreal for practicing, he felt secure because of masks - and other safety measures. ''For me that just provides a sense of security,'' he said of the facial coverings. ''You get your own two basketballs - that's it. You have your one coach wearing masks and gloves that are unique to you. Even in the weight room, you pick up a weight, and if I was using 45s (pounds), nobody else that day was allowed to use the 45s until they were cleaned and sterilized, so to me it was so well regimented that I feel pretty safe going.''
The Miami Heat opened their practice facility at AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday for the first time since mid-March, with players allowed to work out individually, with no more than four players present per session.
"It's been so long since we've had the opportunity to smile collectively like that, even if it was just a small group," Heat captain Udonis Haslem said after his workout. "Once you step on the court, it's like riding a bike. Your competitive juices get going. You kind of just fall back into your routine and it's kind of like you never left."
"It felt great at the beginning, started off making all my shots, everything felt good, like riding a bike," Haslem said. "Toward the end, then I got a little fatigued. My wind was good, but definitely legs get fatigued, no matter how hard you work out or what you do. You can never simulate game legs and getting up shots and repetitions like that.
The NBA is now one-third of the way back, at least in terms of voluntary workouts. With Miami re-opening its doors Wednesday, 10 of the league's 30 teams have gone forward with on-court individual workouts - the first permitted sessions since the league ordered teams to close their training facilities as part of the coronavirus pandemic response about two months ago.
Besides the Heat, the other teams that have opened so far are Portland, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Denver, Atlanta, Indiana, Sacramento, Toronto and Utah. More are expected in the coming days; among them, Orlando is close, and the Los Angeles Lakers are targeting Saturday.
The Wizards had planned to take extreme measures to safeguard their staffers and players. However, on Wednesday, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) extended the city’s stay-at-home order to June 8, stating infections have not declined enough to start the capital’s reopening. With the city still shut down, the Wizards’ intentions to reopen the practice facility have been shelved.
“We’re not in a position to put up a fuss. But we have to prepare that it will be open on the 15th,” Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard said, shortly before he learned the order was extended. “But if [the stay-at-home order] is not [lifted], we’ll open when it is.”
Whenever the Wizards open, Sheppard said four assistant coaches will be on hand for the four players and no more than 10 people will be inside the facility at a time. Currently, eight to 10 Wizards players remain in the area and the team will not push the remaining players to return — “there’s zero pressure,” Sheppard said. For those who do enter the doors, whenever that is possible, they will find a new normal.”
This week – and the weeks to come – will be different. The practice facility – the hub of Raptors life throughout the year – has been shuttered for two months following the suspension of the NBA season due to COVID-19. Forward Malcolm Miller and Raptors assistant coach Brittni Donaldson were the first members of the team in the building on Monday morning when it opened for the first time for limited use.
Already waiting was a member of the Raptors’ medical staff, who took their temperature – anyone above 99.1F [37.3C] is sent home. Then they had to fill out a survey of their symptoms. Then – while wearing masks – they proceeded directly to the gym floor, as the players’ locker rooms, coaches’ offices, the weight room, treatment facilities and lounge all remain on lockdown. They weren’t allowed to be within 12 feet of one another.
“It definitely felt strange, I missed it,” said Malcolm Miller, who has been ‘eating’ the team-supplied weights in workouts at home in an effort to come out of the lockdown with a few more pounds of muscle on his slender frame. “It was a good experience just to have the basketball in your hands, feel the basketball and just get back to the game you love, even in a different format.”
ESPN, Fox, NBC, CBS and Turner Sports, according to sources, have experimented with the idea of using virtual reality to enhance the at-home viewing experience, by superimposing realistic-looking fans onto screens. The idea is in its infancy and there is a mixture of opinions toward it, but it is something the networks are playing with as fan-less games appear to be the immediate reality.
Sportscasters increasingly not being on site, at least for the time being, is the new normal though. The lack of fans in attendance will allow for the increased use of drones and different, potentially closer camera angles. It also will lead to new challenges. “Audio becomes a big issue,” ESPN’s executive vice president of production Stephanie Druley said. “Now, you can pick up everything that is being said. We have had discussions about really leaning into the audio as part of the broadcast.”
As for the NBA, if it ends up holding games in a single complex, such as in Orlando, it could allow for an intimate view of the game without the need to enhance the broadcast as much. There also would be the ability to pick up a lot of fun audio.
Florida's Ron DeSantis became the second governor to announce that his state is open to professional sports teams that want to resume activity amid the coronavirus pandemic. "All professional sports are welcome here for practicing and for playing," DeSantis said at a news conference Wednesday in Tallahassee. "What I would tell commissioners of leagues is, if you have a team in an area where they just won't let them operate, we'll find a place for you here in the state of Florida."
On Tuesday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced that professional sports including MLB, the NBA, the NHL and the NFL may resume in the state -- without fans -- on Saturday, as long as CDC guidelines are followed.
DeSantis specifically mentioned baseball, soccer and basketball in his remarks Wednesday. "Our people are starved to have some of this back in our lives," he said. "I think we can certainly do it in a way that's safe."
NBA opinion-leaders Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal are on-record saying that COVID-19 is enough now to give up the season. NBA opinion-leader Mark Cuban - as cautious as he continues to be about needing a return from hiatus to "be perfect'' - says Barkley and Shaq are off-base. "I love those guys but they're wrong," Cuban said. "Guys want to play, there's still a season to be finished out, I still think we can play a few games and then go into the playoffs and crown a champion... let's go, let's play."
Some teams have been permitted to reopen practice facilities where it is allowed by the state. Currently Wisconsin’s stay at home orders last through May 26th. “That will be the toughest part and that will be the thing I think the NBA will have to try and figure out if and when we are able to get back to playing is, how do we make sure that guys are not only in shape physically but in shape from a skill set for basketball," Connaughton said.
Sports Illustrated and the New York Times report the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has offered its facilities to house players and host games in a "fully quarantined campus." “It would be like a bubble, it would be very strict. It would be testing before you got there. There would be testing for the two weeks while you were there for the 'incubation period.' And then there would be nobody coming or going for the entire time. So it would be a sacrifice, guys wouldn’t be able to see their families, their kids, things like that. But it’s what would have to be done because health and safety is the number one priority, so that’s what they’re trying to figure out now and I think that’s the most difficult part," Connaughton said.
Chris Grenham: Jaylen Brown on @CNN: "A lot of the guys want to play. The most influential players that were on that call that we speak of, a lot of those guys want to continue the season and that's very important to us." pic.twitter.com/lShZj8x4UW
Diamond Leung: What could an NBA game with no fans be like? Bucks CMO Dustin Godsey on today's SportsPro webinar: "I think you're going to see some opportunities w/ virtual fans & whether there's screens in the stands that are piping in fans, everything feels like it's on the table right now."
How much risk is worth playing for the NBA and its players? Commissioner Adam Silver repeated the phrase from his call with all NBA players on Friday to the Board of Governors on Tuesday, and that message will ring throughout the league over the next several weeks. Here is what you should know following Tuesday’s call with the Board of Governors, which The Athletic has learned via multiple sources.
For owners and executives, the belief is that a decision on whether or not to play out the season can’t be delayed into July. Silver and the NBA want to make the most educated decision, and this timetable allows the league to push off a decision into mid-June, which would make it roughly three months from the league’s suspension.
Ultimately, everyone involved has understood the significant financial ramifications if the season is not able to finish. Silver told players on a call Friday and reiterated on Tuesday to the owners: Perhaps public perception will have changed, but the situation we are dealing with may be the same, if not worse, in the fall or winter.
How would a potential return look? One or two locations — such as Disney World in Orlando or Las Vegas — and this playing grounds environment that Silver described Tuesday: Players/personnel able to move around, but undergo testing upon re-entry. This would mean that people involved in the isolated city environment would be re-examined before any return to the remainder of the pack. It would not be a strict “medical bubble,” Silver said to the players and again on Tuesday.
NBA players want to resume the 2019-20 season with the regular season and a full playoff schedule, “if it is safe to do so,” the National Basketball Players Association told agents in a memo sent on Tuesday. The memo came as ESPN reported NBPA regional representatives reached out to players for an informal survey asking if they want to return this season. While informal, responses were overwhelmingly in favor of resuming the season, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive nature of the topic.
In the memo, “if it is safe to do” was underscored, emphasizing the challenge facing sports as they attempt to come back. The memo briefly recapped Friday’s NBPA players meeting that included a session with commissioner Adam Silver. The memo confirmed that “any such resumption would not include fans in arenas, and would likely take place at a single site, but again, it is far too early to speculate on whether any such plan will be implemented.” The union said it formed a joint committee of NBPA staffers, outside experts and players Chris Paul, Dwight Powell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum and Russell Westbrook.
Shams Charania: NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Board of Governors today that he is aiming for a 2-to-4 week timetable on the decision about whether to resume season, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
Discussions centered on health and safety concerns, including the goal of getting team officials and players comfortable with the idea that a positive test for the coronavirus upon a return would not shutter play.
Silver told those on the call that if a positive test would "shut us down, we probably shouldn't go down this path." The question remains: How many positive tests would be too many, and those are among the questions that the NBA, NBPA and medical experts have to come to terms with in the coming weeks before the league and union can greenlight a resumption of play.
Once the NBA formalizes a return to play, the league indicated to teams that the plan would be to standardize coronavirus testing among the 30 teams, sources said. For now, the NBA is allowing teams to use a variety of tests.
Some of the NBA’s biggest superstars formed a united front to resume the 2019-20 season during a private conference call Monday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Toward the end of the call discussing the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic, all parties were in agreement to take the court with proper safety measures once the league is given the green light to commence, sources said.
The group’s decision is expected to hold significant weight in the decision-making process for the rest of the league’s players when it’s time to deliberate on whether to restart the season. ESPN reported that players association reps began informally polling players about resuming the season.
In a conference with players on Friday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver stated that he couldn’t guarantee the safety of the players if play resumed in a city where they would be quarantined, but assured them the league would do everything in its power to make the safest conditions possible, sources said. That didn’t sit well with some players, sources said, with a vaccine not expected to be available for a year or two.
The majority of players who are essentially eliminated from postseason contention would rather the league start back up with the top eight teams in each conference competing in some sort of playoff, sources said. For some players out of the playoff picture, there’s concern a canceled season could negatively affect the next CBA, sources said. Silver said he doesn’t have to make a decision on the season until some point in June.
Jared Dudley: Safety obviously 1st! No where will be as safe as the NBA compound site they determine but, I Don’t think players know the effects of NOT playing does too next year. This is bigger then My team isnt in the playoffs so who cares! No playoffs, no tv money, NEW CBA next year!
Adrian Wojnarowski: National Basketball Players Association regional representatives started texting NBA players today with a 'yes or no' question it says will be kept confidential: Do you want to try and play again this season? The union's trying to gauge broader sentiment of its 400-plus players.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Some teams received the question as part of a group text that included the entire roster. One rep asked a team's players: "Do you want to try and play this season, yes or no?" Another rep worded to a different group: "Do you want the season to start again?"
Mark Cuban: I don’t know. But there’s a bigger collective goal here as well. People need sports, and could you imagine a different league that has an opportunity to come back and if your team, even if you’re in last place, didn’t want to play? That’s not going to be a good situation to be in, whether you’re a fan of that team or anybody in that organization. I think people will play. Guys realize there’s something bigger at stake. And that’s the best way to put it. NBA players are smart. They recognize there’s something bigger at stake than, you know, the aggravation of playing five, six, seven, whatever-it-may-be more regular-season games even if they’re completely out of the playoffs.
Following up on your comments to Mark Followill and Brian Dameris on our podcast, where you said the Mavericks facility won’t open until testing is widely available: What specifically does widely available mean to you and what’s the importance of it? Mark Cuban: I’ll use the White House protocol. The way the White House protects the president and vice president is the way that I want to protect our players and employees, you know? We’ll just try to just copy what they do as a means of knowing when the time is right. As of now, for all we know, for all we’ve been informed, anyways, they’re testing everybody. And they test their top people on a daily basis. And so they have access to the best science, the best information, and so it just makes sense to me that we just copy them.
The Orlando Magic will not reopen team facilities Tuesday for voluntary individual player workouts amid the coronavirus pandemic as they had tentatively planned last week. The team now plans to reopen Wednesday, but even that is subject to change, according to the spokesman. The Magic continue to await COVID-19 test results for players and staff who will be on hand for workouts, according to the spokesman.
TJ McBride: Two sources have confirmed that the Denver Nuggets practice facility has been opened today in accordance with Colorado Department of Health and NBA guidelines. Nuggets’ players are now able to set time with trainers to get shots up or lift at the practie facility.
The Warriors laid off 1,720 part-time event staff in mid-March — the largest cuts at a single Bay Area location to date during coronavirus — according to a recent state filing with the California Employment Development Department. Though the report doesn’t specify the duration of the layoffs, team spokesman Raymond Ridder told The Chronicle that the employees will return to work as soon as Chase Center is allowed to begin hosting events again.
“Due to the extended shelter-in-place, we are required under the WARN Act to provide notice to part-time employees who normally work at Chase Center events,” the Warriors wrote in a statement to The Chronicle on Monday. “The notice does not indicate a new change in their work status, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Chase Center when it is safe to resume events.”
Ira Winderman: The Miami Heat have been cleared to and will move ahead as planned for individual player workouts at AmericanAirlines Arena starting Wednesday. Still out of town are Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala, Solomon Hill, who all are in California. No COVID testing, but temperature checks.
Mike Conley won ESPN’s H-O-R-S-E competition in the safety and comfort of his own indoor basketball gym. Joe Ingles, meanwhile, had been itching for a chance to shoot a ball. But with the Zions Bank Basketball Campus closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sharp-shooting lefty had no place to practice his jumper until he had a portable hoop set up in the backyard of his Salt Lake City home.
Among Utah Jazz players, Ingles' situation is far more common than Conley’s—just one reason Jazz officials were thrilled to allow players to enter the team’s practice facility Monday for the first time since the Coronavirus outbreak shut down the NBA on March 11. Jazz officials confirmed “a handful of Utah Jazz players participated in voluntary, individual workouts” at the facility on Monday.
Chris Mannix: Several Jazz players participated in voluntary, individual workouts today at the teams practice facility, per team. Workouts were in accordance with Utah Department of Health and NBA regulations.
When the season was suspended on March 11 because of the first confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Pistons had 16 regular-season games remaining, with eight at Little Caesars Arena. That included marquee games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets. Whether those games will be played in front of fans is unlikely, but the Pistons are offering a credit to be used when that game is rescheduled, to a game next season or get a refund.
November 27, 2021 | 9:00 pm EST Update
Ohm Youngmisuk: Nic Batum remains in health and safety protocols and will be out tomorrow against Golden State.