Earlier today, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowki and Zach Lowe reported NBA teams are expecting guidelines from the league around June 1 regarding players returning to home markets and expanding individual workouts. Then, earlier this evening, Sports Illustrated’s Mike Fisher reported the league is discussing completing a 70-game season to restart in July.
BREAKING: NBA sources tell @SInow and @1053thefan league is discussing completing a 70-game season, to re-start in July - with a planned Thursday conference call for GMs to spitball ideas. pic.twitter.com/JyVTiXWMVh— fishsports (@fishsports) May 20, 2020
While I wouldn’t accept this report with the concrete certainty of a Woj bomb, the timeline does make sense given what we’ve heard previously from the league. Players are going to need around three weeks to get back into basketball shape, and I’m sure they’d like a few games to get back into the swing of things before jumping right into the playoffs.
As things stand, most teams have played around 64-65 regular season games, meaning there would be around 5 to 6 games to ramp up for the postseason. So June would be for players to get back into basketball shape, the regular season would conclude in the first two weeks of July at a central location in Orlando or Las Vegas, and playoffs would begin mid-July. It seems feasible, presuming there isn’t a second wave of COVID-19 cases sweeping the country, or a spike in cases within the league itself.
Plus, there’s a reason 70 games is a key number for the league, as pointed out by Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.
The 70 game threshold @shamus_clancy and I have talked about on the pod recently (gotta get that regional RSN money) it would be truly absurd to have a bunch of eliminated teams come back to play 5 games no one can attend https://t.co/apWtUIvDXN— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) May 20, 2020
Broadcasts by regional sports networks (like NBC Sports Philadelphia) make up a sizable chunk of the league’s television revenue. As relayed by Sports Illustrated, Brian Windhorst explained on a podcast back in March the significance of that number.
”What they would love to do is to get to 70 games,” Windhorst said on his podcast. “And the reason is it’s 70 is a key number is because that is what the deliverable is to the regional sports networks. They are promised 70 games.”
“Now, just because a team like the Lakers, for example, to get to 70 games ... they wouldn’t necessarily be able to deliver on that because they’ve had a lot of national games,” Windhorst said. “But getting to 70 would be helpful in retaining revenue because they wouldn’t have to refund some to the local TV.”
I’m sure some fans will view the financial considerations for the decision in a cynical light, but as I laid out above, players will need to play a handful of games to ramp up anyway. Call them regular season games if you want and tack on a couple extra if you need to reach this 70 number — it doesn’t make any difference to me. I would anticipate many teams already locked into the playoffs treating those like preseason games anyway, in terms of broadening the rotation and reducing the minutes played for top guys.
Regardless, it’s heartening to see the faint outline of a plan for basketball to return to our lives. Fingers crossed for whatever the league officially decides to work out smoothly and in a way enabling the safety of all parties involved.