The NBA is pursuing a pre-Christmas Day start and a reduced regular-season schedule for the 2020-2021 season, abandoning plans to delay the opening with hopes of incorporating fans back into arenas, sources told ESPN.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA is proposing several changes to next season that include a 72-game regular season, a play-in tournament and the likelihood of no All-Star Game or All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis, sources said. The league is considering a two-week break at the midway point of the season, sources said.
The NBA shared these plans in a call with the league’s board of governors on Friday afternoon, and the league plans to move quickly to complete negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association to implement the plan, sources said.
The reduction in regular-season games — which would help accommodate a play-in tournament format for both conferences — allows the NBA to finish the season before the Summer Olympics in Japan.
A pre-Christmas start also allows the NBA’s television partners — ESPN and Turner — to further realize the value of broadcast partnerships.
As the coronavirus continues to rage across the country, the NBA strongly prefers to stay out of a bubble format and continues discussing travel and game schedules that would keep teams in a marketplace longer and playing multiple games, similar to Major League Baseball series, sources said.
Two-thirds of the league’s local jurisdictions aren’t currently allowing for public gatherings of more than 500 people, and ominous public health projections for the trajectory of the virus’ spread have limited the league’s hope of safely returning fans to arenas in the next few months, sources said.
Around the league, there’s support to be playing again by Christmas, but a realization that it’s going to become a chaotic challenge coming out of a Nov. 18 draft, free agency and training camps that would need to be open shortly after Thanksgiving. Without a bubble environment, the NBA will be facing positive coronavirus tests for players and staff.
Oct. 30 is setting up to be a key date. The NBA and NBPA agreed that day would be the deadline to complete ongoing discussions on modifications to the collective bargaining agreement for the 2020-21 season, a deadline date that requires the league or union to provide 45 days notice if either decides to terminate the CBA — a scenario that sources continue to believe is a remote possibility.
It would also mark roughly eight weeks until Christmas week. Commissioner Adam Silver has told the union that there would be at least eight weeks between an agreement and the formal start of next season.
The loss of fan revenue on game nights — which Silver says is 40% of the league’s revenue — is causing the NBA and NBPA to make significant financial allowances in salary caps and player escrows.
Talks between the NBA and union have been productive on making the necessary financial allowances on 2020-2021 salary-cap and luxury-tax thresholds to account for the massive losses in revenue from the pandemic, sources said.
Ongoing talks are centering on increased escrow taken from players’ salaries, sources said. The league and union are still awaiting full audits on the Basketball Related Income that accounts for the league’s 51-49 revenue split with players.
The NBA and NBPA are working on resetting the 2020-21 salary-cap and luxury-tax numbers based upon those audits and financial projections for the next year. This allows for teams, agents and players to have more time to prepare for the financial realities of the pandemic’s impact on the league. As the NBA draft approaches on Nov. 18 — and with free agency expected to start soon after — teams are anxious for the league to reach an agreement with the union and deliver them more certainty on the cap and tax bills.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.
Charlotte Hornets complete sign-and-trade with Boston Celtics to acquire Gordon Hayward
The sign-and-trade agreement creates a $27.9 million trade exception for the Celtics, the largest in NBA history.
Hayward, 30, declined his $34.2 million player option with Boston earlier this month, ending a tumultuous three-year run with the team, then agreed to a four-year, $120 million deal with the Hornets.
“We are thrilled to welcome Gordon and his family to the Hornets organization and Charlotte,” general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Gordon is an NBA All-Star, a proven scorer and playmaker and a tough competitor that will fit well into the needs of our team. We believe that his basketball talent, NBA experience and veteran leadership will make a positive impact on our young, talented team as it continues to develop.”
To help make room for Hayward’s salary, Charlotte waived Nicolas Batum. The final year of his deal will be stretched over the next three seasons as a yearly $9 million dead cap hit.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks contributed to this report.
NBA says Kobe Bryant’s delayed Hall of Fame induction coming in May 2021
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will finally enter the Basketball Hall of Fame in May 2021.
The NBA said Saturday that the delayed Hall of Fame weekend — it was to have taken place in Springfield, Massachusetts, in August before being pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic — will be held May 13-15.
Bryant, Duncan and Garnett — with a combined 48 All-Star Game selections and 11 NBA championships between them — were the headliners of the class that was announced in April. They all got into the Hall in their first year as finalists, as did WNBA great Tamika Catchings.
Others had to wait a bit longer for the Hall’s call: Two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich got in this year, as did longtime Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, 1,000-game winner Barbara Stevens of Bentley and three-time Final Four coach Eddie Sutton.
Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, along with daughter Gianna and seven others. Sutton died May 23.
Also going in as part of this class is former FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann, who was chosen by the international committee. Baumann died in October 2018.
NBA outlines COVID-19 safety protocols in 134-page guide
Ahead of training camps opening up across the NBA next week, the league has compiled a comprehensive health and safety protocol for the 2020-21 NBA season and sent it to its teams.
The document, which was obtained by ESPN, is 134 pages long, and is similar to the one the league created to govern everything that happened inside the bubble it created at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, this summer.
This time, however, the league will be attempting to combat the coronavirus without the benefit of being inside a bubble where it was able to be successfully sealed away from the outside world.
And, like in that document, the league has constructed a rules system for what will happen when someone tests positive for COVID-19. Under such a scenario, there are two potential paths to return: a “time-based” resolution, and a “test-based” resolution.
Under the time-based resolution, the infected person would have to either have gone at least 10 days since the date of their first positive test or the onset of any symptoms, if they’ve had any; gone at least 24 hours since their fever went away without using any medications; and other symptoms have improved, while specifically noting that losses of taste or smell alone are not expected to prevent someone from leaving isolation.
Under the test-based resolution, the person must return at least two consecutive negative PCR tests from samples taken at least 24 hours apart.
Either way, any player who is determined to have a new positive case from testing — whether they have symptoms or not — will not be allowed to participate in any exercise training for at least 10 days from either the positive test or the resolution of symptoms, if they have any.
Once a player has waited that minimum of 10 days, they then must spend two days working out by themselves, not interacting with anyone or participating in any team activities, wearing a mask at all times when at the facility — whether they are working out or not — and must participate in a cardiac screening. So any player who tests positive will have to miss a minimum of 12 days before they can return to play.
Any player who has had a severe case of COVID-19, or who was hospitalized at any point, will have to be observed for at least three full days before they can be cleared to return to play.
When someone tests positive for the coronavirus, teams must go through a variety of steps, including: reporting the positive test to local authorities; contact trace all close contacts; clean and disinfect any space controlled by the team or its arena where the person who tested positive had been since their last negative test; and set up isolation housing for the person with the positive test.
Typically, teams are unable to pay for housing for their players, as it is seen as a way to circumvent the league’s salary cap. However, in this unique situation, the league has waived that to allow for teams to be able to pay for isolation housing for any players who test positive.
As for the possibility of suspending the season — like the NBA did back in March — the league doesn’t state what would trigger such a decision to need to happen again. Instead, all it says is that, “The occurrence of independent cases or a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the 2020-21 season.”
The document says it is designed to “promote prevention and mitigation strategies to reduce exposure to, and transmission of, the coronavirus,” but that it is likely some players and staff will contract the virus.
As the league confronts the reality of teams having to crisscross the country in order to try to attempt to complete the 72-game regular season, and the playoffs after that, it has imposed a limit of 45 people for any team’s travel party — including up to 17 players. The protocol states that, “as when in their team’s market, members of the traveling party shall remain obligated to minimize risks to manage their health and enhance that of all individuals involved in the 2020-21 season.”
It also says further information regarding what travel parties will be permitted to do on the road will be provided at a later date.
The NBA’s preseason opens Friday, Dec. 11.
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