NBA commissioner Adam Silver told team owners Friday he's targeting a July 31 return to play, US media reported, although the format for completing the season remains unclear.
The Los Angeles Times was among the outlets reporting Silver suggested July 31 as a potential re-start date when speaking on a conference call with the board of governors, citing unnamed sources familiar with the call.
The NBA suspended play on March 11 in response to the coronavirus pandemic and multiple scenarios for resuming and completing the season are still being considered.
One option would be to bring back all 30 teams to complete the tail end of the regular season before staging the playoffs -- an idea that appears to have little support with many of those teams out of post-season contention.
“They flat-out don't want to play,” one unnamed executive told the LA Times of teams with no chance to make the playoffs.
Also under discussion is the return of 20 teams, with competition being split into World Cup-style pool play that virtually serves as the first round of the playoffs.
Another suggestion would bring back up to 22 teams -- all that were within six games of a playoff spot when play was halted. The scenario would include some regular season games and a play-in tournament for berths in the playoffs to follow.
The league's survey of general managers this week reportedly found that 53% backed the return of 16 teams -- those currently occupying playoff spots in the standings -- to go straight into the post-season.
In that scenario, however, the league could decide to scrap seeding by conference and instead seed teams by overall league standings.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spoke to ESPN on Friday, reiterating his enthusiasm for a plan that would bring back the top 10 teams from both conferences and give the lower ranked teams a chance to play their way into a 16-team playoff field.
“It's fair, it creates excitement, it gives all players a reason to play for the most part,” Cuban said.
He acknowledged that with so many permutations under consideration and with teams in varying financial situations that reaching a decision would be difficult.
But he was confident in Silver's ability to get all 30 clubs on board with a plan.
“I'm sure Adam will do what he does best,” Cuban said. “He'll talk to all the different owners and get their perspective, bounce ideas off them and get their feedback,” Cuban said. “He knows how to herd cats.”
- 'Herd cats' -
Players must also be on board, and Cuban said the key to easing their safety concerns would be transparency.
“Of course there's going to be uncertainty,” Cuban said. “We just have to be transparent with everything.”
Measures to prevent the spread of the virus -- such as quarantine and testing protocols -- remain to be finalised.
The NBA confirmed last weekend that it was in “exploratory” talks with The Walt Disney Co. about resuming the season at the company's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as a “campus” for games, practices and housing.
The 220-acre complex has three arenas and 24,000 hotel rooms and would allow the league to resume play in a closed-door environment.
Las Vegas has also been suggested as a site where the NBA could resume play while keeping players from multiple teams in a restricted environment.
NBA players are currently being allowed into team facilities to conduct solo workouts, subject to local coronavirus restrictions, but team training has not resumed.
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