Coronavirus outbreak

NBA timeout could go into overtime

Virus-hit season may not be completed; July Finals an option despite clash with Olympics

All NBA games are on hiatus till at least April 10 due to Covid-19, including the Bucks' home game last Thursday against the Boston Celtics.
All NBA games are on hiatus till at least April 10 due to Covid-19, including the Bucks' home game last Thursday against the Boston Celtics. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Adam Silver, the National Basketball Association (NBA) commissioner, has said that he is working closely with health officials to determine the resumption of the season, while admitting at the same time that the campaign could remain unfinished.

The 57-year-old imposed an indefinite hiatus on the NBA on Wednesday after Utah's Rudy Gobert tested positive for the Covid-19 disease, with every other major North American sports organisation quickly following suit.

Gobert has since pledged to donate US$500,000 (S$707,450) for arena employees in Utah and Oklahoma City, as well as for Covid-19 relief in his home country of France.

This came after the centre apologised on Thursday for acting carelessly before he was diagnosed with the virus, when he touched microphones deliberately after a media session. Media reports last night said Christian Wood of the Detroit Pistons is the third NBA player to test positive for the virus, joining Gobert and Utah teammate Donovan Mitchell.

Silver, who predicted the season shutdown would last "at least 30 days", added: "We intend to resume the season if and when it becomes safe for all concerned.

"In the meantime, we will continue to coordinate with infectious disease and public health experts along with government officials to determine safe protocols for resuming our games."

The hiatus will last till at least April 10, eight days before the scheduled start of the NBA play-offs, but Silver and team owners could extend it depending on the virus situation, delaying resumption of the campaign into June or later.

As of yesterday, the United States has more than 2,800 infections and 57 deaths across the country.

"Even if we're out for a month, even if we're out for six weeks, we can still restart the season," Silver said. "It might mean that the Finals take place in July or late July."

But he also admitted it is possible the season will not be completed.

That option would cost the NBA hundreds of millions of dollars in broadcast income from missed playoff games, cutting salary revenue for the 2020-21 season.

If the NBA Finals were to take place in July, it will be up against the July 24-Aug 9 Tokyo Olympics, where a US squad of NBA stars is set to compete for a fourth consecutive gold medal.

A 12-man US roster of NBA talent is usually named just ahead of training camp in early July in Las Vegas.

If the Olympics take place as planned and the NBA play-offs are extended, it might prevent top players from going to Tokyo if their teams make deep post-season runs.

It might keep LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard from Japan but Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Bradley Beal and Kevin Love are US team finalists whose clubs are not currently occupying play-off spots.

Green told the Athletic he does not expect a return any time soon.

He said: "If they start the season back up and then somebody else catches it, then what? You can't just quarantine a few guys for some days and then start it all back up."

The NBA could play an abbreviated finish to the regular season then the play-offs, finish the last month of the campaign before the play-offs or return directly to the play-offs based on the results from before the shutdown, even with an uneven number of games.

The length of each play-off round could be trimmed from a best-of-seven series and possibly the start of the 2020-21 campaign could be delayed to allow for a normal-length off-season.

Pushing back the play-offs could also delay the NBA Draft, set for late June, as well as free agency.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2020, with the headline 'NBA timeout could go into overtime'. Subscribe