Season Postponement Roundup: Practice Facilities Reopen, Draft Lottery Put Off
It's been two months since the suspension of the 2019-20 NBA regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and unfortunately (if not understandably) we don't really have a better sense of whether the season will resume and when that resumption might take place than we did when the league closed up shop on March 11. But there have been some small news items detaailing incremental changes over the last few weeks which are probably worth noting...
PRACTICE FACILITY REOPENS
• Last Friday, the Trail Blazers re-opened their practice facility in Tualatin to players for the first time since the NBA mandated such facilities close soon after the suspension of the 2019-20 regular season on March 11. The majority of the team availed themselves of the opportunity to get up shots and go through some form of workout despite a litany of new safety regulations handed down by the NBA in an attempt to lessen the risk of players and staff contracting and/or spreading COVID-19.
Some of those regulations: temperature checks at the door, only four players can be in the practice facility at one time, workouts can last no longer than 90 minutes, players have to wear masks other than when they're working out, balls and equipment have to be regularly sanitized, staff and assistant coaches must always wear gloves and masks, social distancing is extended from six feet to 12, players can't use the locker room nor associated facilities, head coaches and front office staffers are not allowed to watch and all participation is strictly voluntary.
This is not the first time players have been able to utilize the practice facility during the suspension. Players were initially allowed to continue working out at the practice facility, but when it became clear that the issues presented by the COVID-19 pandemic would stretch out for months rather than weeks, the decision was made to close practice facilities for all 30 teams. Exemptions were allowed for players rehabilitating existing injuries -- Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Rodney Hood have had access to medical and training staff at the practice facility three days a week for most of the postponement -- but now access to the practice facility, even in a reduced capacity, is available to the entire roster.
While the Trail Blazers were one of the first teams to re-open their facility, other teams are starting the process of gradually welcoming players back into their gyms. Officials with the NBA have noted that re-opening practice facilities should not be viewed as proof that games will start taking place again any time soon, but it's undoubtably a step in the right direction.
ADAM SILVER HOLDS CONFERENCE CALL WITH PLAYERS
• Also last week, NBA commissioner Adam Silver held a call with the league's players and their union, the NBA Players Association. During the call, Silver delivered some hard truths about the immediate future of the league, specifically issues involving sinking revenues and their impact on the collective bargaining agreement.
Silver also noted, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, that sequestering all of the team in one or two locations makes the most sense if/when restarting the 2019-20 season, whatever that might look like, is feasible.
What Silver didn't give the players was a timeline on when any decisions might be made. According to Wojnarowski, Silver told the players that there might not be a decision about next steps before the end of May, and perhaps even past the first few weeks of June. Next season not potentially starting until December was also discussed, as was now long a training camp prior to any potential restart would need to be in order for players to get in shape and lessen the chance of injury.
2020 DRAFT LOTTERY/COMBINE POSTPONED
• The NBA has been reluctant to make any hard and fast decisions about non-game events during the season postponement, which makes sense considering the somewhat unpredictable nature of pandemic. But as the days tick away with no resumption of anything resembling regular life prior to COVID-19, the simple fact is that events will have to be put off, even if they can't yet be rescheduled.
The first such event to be postponed is the NBA Draft Lottery, which was originally slated to take place on May 19, and the Draft Combine, both of which were supposed to be held in Chicago. No reschedule date has yet been set for the draft lottery, which determines the order of the first 14 first-round selections, nor the combine.
It should be noted that since the odds for the draft lottery are determined by a team's record at the end of the regular season, there would be no way to conduct the lottery, at least under current rules, until we know if the 2019-20 regular season will resume. And if the season doesn't resume, the league will have to determine how to decide how the odds considering teams have not yet finishing out their original 82-game slate.
The NBA hasn't yet announced a postponement of the actual 2020 Draft, but it's a safe bet that it will not be held on June 25 as originally scheduled.
AGREEMENT TO PUSH OUT DEADLINE TO VOID CBA
• There are all kinds of contractual deadlines in the NBA, from player options to team options to future options, and for the most part, those can easily be extended out until the league figures out how to proceed for the rest of 2020. But the suspension of the season also triggers a number of scenarios in which drastic changes can be made, and for those deadlines, a bit more negotiation is necessary.
Such is the case with league's right to terminate the current collective bargaining agreement through force majeure provisions. According to the CBA, the league was eligible to terminate the contract between the league and players due to COVID-19, which is a qualifying event, two months after the postponement of the season.
But rather than going that route, which would would end the 2019-20 season, along with a number of additional serious repercussions, the league and the NBPA have agreed to extend that deadline to September according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. One assumes that, at that point, the NBA will have a better idea of how COVID-19 has effected the ability to play games and the impact of the stoppage on the financial health of the league.