Amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, commissioner Adam Silver is dealing with constant worst-case scenarios for the NBA. While it may not end up needing to be that way, Silver has to be prepared for a doomsday reality, so that if it happens, he knows what to do.
When it comes to the 2019-20 regular season, the NBA is constantly working with the players, health officials and local governments to figure out how play can return safely. This would involve widespread testing of players, and playing all the games in a bubble, either in Las Vegas or Orlando.
However – while the NBA figures out how to clear that hurdle – Silver must start looking ahead to the 2020-21 season. It’s already assumed that it will be starting in December, potentially as late as Christmas, regardless of what happens with the current season.
Nevertheless, Silver reportedly is preparing players for the possibility of needing to play at least a portion of next season without fans in the arena, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
With fans in buildings constituting 40 percent of league revenue, the NBA is working on creative ways on TV to deliver the games to audiences, Silver told players. Silver started to prepare players for possibility of no fans in arenas next year without a vaccine, sources said.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 8, 2020
We are still months away from when the 2020-21 NBA season would begin. But until there is a vaccine or a medication of some kind that is widely available, there is just too much risk associated with having fans at the games.
It’s very possible that — by December — there will be a proven remedy for the coronavirus that decreases its fatality rate. At that point, Silver and the NBA would re-assess and likely allow fans into the games.
And although it seems unnecessary to talk about right now, especially while the 2019-20 NBA season is still up in the air, part of Silver’s job is to figure these things out. If there is a way for this season to continue — and for the 2020-21 season to have fans — Silver will absolutely do it.
For now, it’s best that Silver prepare players for a very different sports environment for at least the next calendar year. Perhaps it will be less than that, but Silver and the NBA would rather be over-prepared than the other way around.