NBA Rumor: 2020-21 Season Plans

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Mavs inviting vaccinated essential workers to arena

Starting with Monday night’s home game against Minnesota, the Mavericks finally will have fans in American Airlines Center, but not just any fans: 1,500 essential workers, who will be admitted for free. “We owe so much to people who have put their lives at risk to make us safer,” said Mavs owner, Mark Cuban said in a news release. “Bringing them to a Mavs game is the least we can do!”

Under new media rules, after you pass your COVID test, you go to your assigned seat and stay there. Period. Unless you need a bathroom break. From the Nets’ media seats in the 200 level (think “corner of the arena, halfway up”) one could see a pair of security guards come onto the court during every timeout, but there was nothing for them to do except go through the motions and look busy. There was no one inside the arena for them to crowd control.

Facing projected losses of up to 40% in revenue for the 2020-21 season due to the loss of gate receipts, according to ESPN, players weighed the financial realities with the physical and mental toll of resuming play so quickly, leading to the shortest NBA offseason in history. “It was a no-brainer for us to start (early),” Monte Morris said. “It was something that some guys weren’t wanting to do so quick, just with the standard of being off, just getting done with basketball. Sometimes, you want to sit back and have a break.”

In an interview Tuesday morning, Nets and BSE Global CEO John Abbamondi told CNBC that the NBA will face huge losses without fans in the stands this season, but he’s hopeful that as things return to normal with COVID vaccines, arenas will be full again by the post-season. Abbamondi added he’s also hopeful that the NBA season will survive “bumps along this road” as the play resumes while the pandemic continues to rage across the country. The concern, he said, begins with players testing positive for the coronavirus.

Abbamondi told CNBC that NBA teams hope they’ll be able to welcome fans back in time for the postseason, when gate revenues —and team profits— are usually at their highest. In the meantime, the league has raised $900 million and will provide teams with $30 million each to stay afloat for the year. “We are optimistic that before this season is over, which will be in the summer of next year, things are going to look very different,” Abbamondi said. “There is a lot of caution, but there’s also a sense of optimism, and I think all Americans share that.”

And yet, the executive said, “do I think all 72 will be played for every team? No.” “When we went to Orlando, our expectation was that it was possible that we would have cases and that we would have to manage those and obviously that was as successful as we could have dreamed,” said David Weiss, the NBA’s senior vice president of player matters. “Now our expectation is that we’re going to have cases and we’ll have to manage those, especially given the backdrop of the country.

The problem is that frequent testing is a reactive, and not a truly preventative means of stymieing an outbreak. A forgotten fact about the 2020 NBA bubble is that there were dozens of positive tests from staff, workers and other individuals involved with running the bubble. But the bubble was successful in preventing these cases from spilling over into the pool of players because of the hard barrier between the players and the rest of the bubble (and surrounding world). Bharti noted that “when you have something like the NBA’s bubble system, it’s defined by layers of increasing porosity around the tightly protected players [e.g., buffers between the players and the hotel staff, who move in and out of the bubble]. But once you’re in the inner bubble, the mixing and the contact rates inside of it are very high and the contacts are frequent. So if you take that configuration of frequency of contacts and intensity of contacts, and you try and do it without the peripheral buffers, you would very quickly end up in trouble because you wouldn’t have firebreaks between teams.”

The NBA schedule means more travel and frequent contact between teams. For all of the NBA’s problems with COVID-19, the structure of the NFL schedule facilitates more control over interactions between teams. That is, over 80% of teams usually play on a single day (Sunday, with most of the other matchups being single games on Thursday and Monday). And this schedule means that it is easier to control contacts through the rescheduling of games. For the 2020-21 season, the NBA has gone to lengths to change the schedule to prevent frequent travel and contacts (e.g., instituting a “series” structure as in the MLB, where teams play each other multiple times consecutively, all in one city).

The NBA may not have the personnel to withstand player losses that will come with team outbreaks. One of the largest threats to the NBA’s well-being resides in one of its strengths. That is, the league has risen to prominence so rapidly in part because it is a player- and personality-driven sport. And it is that way because teams are not composed of large armies of faceless individuals who can easily be replaced. Rather, basketball is a great sport specifically because singular performers have such a large influence. And part of this is reflected in the size of NBA rosters: 15 players, of which 13 are active at any given time. Because of this, an outbreak among three players on a given team would be much more challenging to compensate for than in the NFL, with its larger roster (53 players) and practice squad reservoirs. Given the interconnectedness of the schedules and frequency of travel, an outbreak on one team could have ripple effects throughout the league, complicating the schedules of other teams.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in an interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on Monday that the league will never “jump the line in any form whatsoever” when it comes to its players receiving COVID-19 vaccines and that the league plans to work with the government on public service campaigns to promote the importance of taking a vaccine. “There’s no way we’d ever jump the line in any form whatsoever,” Silver said. “And, for the most part, because our players are so young and healthy without some sort of comorbidity, they will not be a high priority for vaccinations. There are some other members of the NBA community working on court who are older and will have a higher priority to get the vaccine.

Adam Silver: New season requires new approach

Adam Silver: The forthcoming season requires a new approach. We’ll no doubt face challenges, but like people everywhere, we want to work if we can do so safely and responsibly. The NBA is no different than many other organizations trying to find their way through the pandemic by balancing several factors, including the potential for significant economic hardship. We are part of a U.S. sports industry that is responsible for 1.3 million jobs. Tens of thousands of people rely on our league and related businesses for their livelihoods.

Adam Silver: In the same way we prepared for our bubble, we’ve designed thorough health and safety protocols in consultation with public health and medical experts, the National Basketball Players Association and our teams that will allow us to return to our arenas. Many of the core principles that we relied on in Florida — daily testing, physical distancing, mask wearing and frequent hand-washing — continue to guide our efforts and the health and safety of everyone remains our top priority. Our season opens Tuesday night and we recognize the journey won’t be without obstacles. It will require extraordinary commitment from players, coaches and staff. But we want to get back to work – safely and responsibly.

“We know there are going to be challenges and bumps, but so far things are good and we’re optimistic that we have a plan that we can work through those challenges and bumps,” said David Weiss, the N.B.A.’s vice president of player matters. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said: “We won’t be able to eliminate cases and outbreaks. But if we can minimize them, then hopefully it can be as close to a normal season as possible.”

Magic CEO Alex Martins said during a media session Monday that the first five regular-season games would feature a capacity of closer to 2,000 to allow fans to adjust to the new health and safety protocols outlined by the NBA, the CDC, AdventHealth and local health officials. “The most important thing and priority for us as an organization going into this season is the health and safety of our fans, our players, our coaches our staff, and thus the reason for all these protocols and the many protocols that we’re following from the NBA,” Martins said.

Mark Cuban expecting fans back to arenas by spring

Sirius XM NBA: “Those last couple of months of the NBA season are going to be incredible.” Mark Cuban tells Frank Isola & Brian Scalabrine he’s confident a vaccine will help get NBA arenas rocking by the spring.

The league is taking, according to sources who’ve heard its discussions with its teams, college and pro football’s position – essentially, we’re going to push through this season, come hell or high water. Football is doing so despite dozens of teenagers getting infected, and numerous college games being canceled. The NFL forges on, despite players being pulled off the field moments before games because of positive tests, or the folly of a team literally not having a quarterback available to play a game. It’s the NFL; it’s incapable of being shamed.

“The health and safety of our fans, players and staff remains our top priority, and after careful consideration in collaboration with the NBA and city and state officials, we will not be hosting fans in the United Center for the beginning of the 2020-21 NBA season,” the team said in a statement. “We will continue working with the league and city and state officials to evaluate conditions to determine if there is a timeline that would allow for fans later this season.”

The 2019 NBA champions spent a couple of months in Orlando — about an hour and 10 minutes east of Tampa – in the bubble before being eliminated by Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals. (The Raptors were also the first non-Florida team on the ground in the Sunshine State, having held camp at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers in late June.) They have some recent intel on life in Florida. But this is still going to be a major disruption. While the NBA’s other 29 teams will have at least some sense of normalcy being back in their home arenas this season, the Raptors will be displaced — again — and likely practicing at hotels and other makeshift locations. How big will Toronto’s competitive disadvantage be?

“Obviously, I would love to be coming back to Toronto,” guard Fred VanVleet said last week. “I haven’t been since March, so it’s been a long time since I’ve been there. Toronto has turned into my second home. Obviously, we miss the city, but I think we’ve gotta be excited about what’s ahead of us. I can’t not be excited about it, it won’t make the experience that great. We were in Florida for a while with the bubble in Orlando, and right back there in Tampa, so hopefully it’s a good experience.”

In addition: There will clearly be at least some competitive disadvantage for the Raptors this season, playing in an unfamiliar city without any of their longtime fans present, compared with the other 29 teams, who will at least be in familiar locker rooms and sleeping in their own beds after home games. Also unique to the Raptors: They’ll have to deal with the Super Bowl, currently scheduled to be played at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7. That will make securing accommodations for players in the days before that game all that much more difficult. In addition, no one can say with certainty at present how long a lease players should agree to sign while in Florida: Six months? Nine months? A year?
3 months ago via ESPN

What happens if an individual or a team breaks COVID-19 protocol? It remains unclear how the NBA will handle potential fines for breaking COVID-19 protocol. The league is still finalizing how it will handle violations, but expect the NBA to follow the NFL’s lead in that fines will likely vary depending on the severity of each violation. The NFL has fined a number of teams for not properly wearing masks. The league also fined Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins just under $5,000 for making a reservation for a family friend at the team hotel.
3 months ago via ESPN

Will games be suspended for positive tests? Much like the NFL, potential game suspensions or postponements will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. NFL teams have tried to play through the schedule when only a handful of players test positive in an organization, but schedules have had to be altered in outbreak situations. The NBA remains confident in its protocols, but it remains to be seen how it will handle the situation if several players on one team test positive at the same time


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February 25, 2021 | 8:41 pm EST Update
James Dolan couldn’t take the joke and his anger went all the way to the top. The Knicks owner complained to NBA commissioner Adam Silver about a 2018 episode of “Game of Zones,” an animated web series that poked fun of various NBA teams and characters, according to the show’s co-creator, Adam Malamut. Dolan’s complaints also reached David Levy, the former president of Turner, but were brushed aside, according to Malamut, who implied that Dolan’s hothead reputation made him easy to ignore.
“The league is cool with (Game of Zones). But technically they work for the owners and technically they had to let us know Dolan wasn’t cool with it,” Malamut said on the podcast ‘Rejecting the Screen’ with hosts Adam Stanco and Noah Coslov. “But everyone else was like, ‘That’s just this particular guy (Dolan), he’s a little fussy.’”
Storyline: Game of Zones