NBA has July 31 cir­cled as tar­get date for re­turn

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - MIKE GAN­TER mgan­ter@post­media.com

TORONTO And now, of­fi­cially a tar­get date. The NBA hasn’t worked all the kinks out yet, but a re­turn date of July 31 is cir­cled on its cal­en­dar.

In a world turned up­side down by a global pan­demic, it’s not the be all and end all for any­one, re­ally, but it’s a sign that our lives are at least be­gin­ning to get back to some­thing re­sem­bling nor­malcy.

Of course, when the game does re­turn and the ball goes up, it will still be dif­fer­ent from how we last left it.

If they go ahead, the NBA will play its games within the locked com­mu­nity of Walt Dis­ney

World in Or­lando, Fla. There will be no fans in the stands, though the games will be avail­able for view­ing — at least, on tele­vi­sion.

They may open the bub­ble city to a hand­ful of na­tional re­porters who would serve as pool cor­re­spon­dents.

It’s doable, of course, though not ideal, but who is go­ing to com­plain? The broad­cast­ers who have paid for league TV rights will be taken care of be­cause they have paid for that priv­i­lege. The rest of the me­dia will take what’s of­fered.

A July 31 tar­get date for a restart gives teams plenty of time to get back into game shape — two full months plus.

But right now, that’s re­ally all we know. We don’t know how many teams will be re­turn­ing to con­tinue their sea­sons. The push seems to be to bring back only the num­ber nec­es­sary to make it fair.

The ar­biter of what is fair will be com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver.

He con­ducted a two-hour board of gov­er­nors meet­ing on Fri­day, hear­ing from his 30 mem­ber own­ers about what they would like to see done.

But rest as­sured, what he’s hear­ing from the Mil­wau­kee Bucks — who go into this thing with best record in the NBA and a vested in­ter­est in Sil­ver’s fi­nal de­ci­sion — is much dif­fer­ent from the bot­tom feed­ing Golden State War­riors, who won just 15 games and are far more in­ter­ested in main­tain­ing their odds of se­cur­ing the first over­all pick in the draft than they are in get­ting back on the court.

Sil­ver has the su­per del­i­cate task of try­ing to ap­pease 30 teams with close to 30 dif­fer­ent agen­das. Sure the Bucks,

L.A. Lak­ers, L.A. Clip­pers and Toronto Rap­tors will have sim­i­lar wants as the top four seeds. But what of the out­liers like the At­lanta Hawks, who have no shot at a ti­tle, but would just like to see their young, de­vel­op­ing team get as much play­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as pos­si­ble.

Read­ing the tea leaves from what’s come out of the var­i­ous league meet­ings the past week, there could be teams un­happy that they have to play with lit­tle to no shot of mean­ing­ful ad­vance­ment, while at the same time there is the very real pos­si­bil­ity that some teams may be told to stay home and call it a year de­spite their wish to play.

Sil­ver has some very tough de­ci­sions to make but as he has shown in the past, he’s more than ca­pa­ble.

Like any good leader in any sport, he has been mak­ing the rounds and so­lic­it­ing the wants and needs of the 30 own­ers he serves as well as the 30 teams he over­sees, and just as im­por­tantly, the 500 or so play­ers that make up the league.

He’s got to bal­ance safety for all those in­volved with the wants and needs of the team own­ers, and a sep­a­rate wish list from league GMS. Then he’s got to make it palat­able for the broad­cast­ers, whose large in­vest­ments have to be re­couped in some man­ner with the best ren­di­tion of the game that can be played as we all carry on un­der the shadow of an­other pos­si­ble spike in COVID-19 that would make all of this moot.

ESPN got a look at the re­sults of a GM sur­vey. Not sur­pris­ingly, ex­actly 16 teams voted in favour of a plan that would see only the 16 play­off teams as of March 11 re­turn and go di­rectly into a play­off bracket.

The other three sce­nar­ios pre­sented didn’t re­ceive the sup­port the di­rect-to-play­offs one did. The other three were:

Re­sume the reg­u­lar sea­son

with all 30 teams, fol­lowed by a play-in tour­na­ment (eight votes)

Go straight to the play­offs with

ei­ther a play-in tour­na­ment or a World Cup-style group stage (five votes)

Re­sume the reg­u­lar sea­son

with all 30 teams and then go straight to the play­offs (one vote)

As for the for­mat the play­offs will take, 16 teams were in favour of the tra­di­tional con­fer­ence seed­ing, while 14 were in favour of re­seed­ing. re­gard­less of con­fer­ence.

Sil­ver, ac­cord­ing to ESPN’S Adrian Wo­j­narowski, is ex­pected to have the fi­nal plan hashed out with the Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion within the week be­fore tak­ing it back to the board of gov­er­nors for ap­proval.

DEN­NIS WIERZBICKI/USA TO­DAY SPORTS FILES

NBA com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver is try­ing to ap­pease 30 teams with 30 dif­fer­ent agen­das.

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