Adam Silver is a realist. The NBA commissioner understands that the situation is so fluid when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, understands that a statement made at noon could be totally changed by 6 p.m.
With that as a backdrop, the most interesting thing he said during Thursday’s interview on TNT is that the NBA isn’t ready to jump ship on the regular season.
The Inquirer’s Marcus Hayes is among many suggesting that when the league returns, if it does indeed resume the season, it should begin with the playoffs.
The regular season was scheduled to end April 15. Silver said during the interview that the NBA’s hiatus “will be likely at least 30 days.” A 30-day stoppage would take us through April 10.
He also was realistic to acknowledge later that it’s possible the season won’t resume. Still, he seems to remain optimistic that a return could happen and the regular season could be saved.
The Sixers (39-26) have 17 regular-season games left.
“Even if we are out for six weeks, we could still restart the season,” Silver said. “You know, it might mean that then the Finals take place in July — you know, late July. Just my feeling was it was way premature to suggest that we had lost the season.”
While things look grim at this point, nobody knows what 30 days or 45 days from now will look like.
One reason to save the regular season is that the NBA has a lot riding on television. The league signed a nine-year, $24 billion deal that began in the 2016-2017 season.
Even though there is a distinct possibility of playing the games in empty arenas, the television deal has an average annual value of $2.6 billion. In addition, teams earn money from their local television broadcasts.
This is not to suggest the league is thinking only of dollars, but it would be naive to say it’s not a factor.
The question is what happens if the delay goes beyond the 45-day period, he said. And how long can the season be postponed before the league decides to cancel things?
One other thought: Say the NBA does return and the Finals go into late July as Silver speculated. Would this be the impetus to finally start the NBA season later?
The NBA, among other leagues, plays second fiddle to the NFL. The signature NBA evening, the Thursday night TNT doubleheader, has to go up against the NFL’s Thursday night matchup.
The 76ers began this season on Oct. 23, which was Week 8 of the NFL season. The Thursday night football broadcasts ran through Dec. 12.
Also any NBA game on a Sunday during the NFL season loses any chance of earning top status.