Adam Silver’s plans for the return of the NBA

If someone had told me that, one day, I would speak of the NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, and King Ferdinand VII (popularly known as The desired) at the same stroke, sure that my left eyebrow would have been raised well above, while the right would have frowned at me, in a very clear gesture of disbelief.

Well, look where, we have reached that day today.

In their National Episodes, the Canarian novelist and playwright Benito Pérez Galdós reported that Ferdinand VII observed how his assistant, faced with the need to urgently want to dress the monarch for an important meeting, failed to finish the assignment, as a result of his nerves, causing the king to enunciate the now famous phrase of: “Dress me slowly, I’m in a hurry”, which basically means that good things take time.

Across the Atlantic, in the building Olympic Tower of Manhattan, overlooking New York’s famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and a stone’s throw from the iconic Rockefeller Center, is the nerve center of the NBA, where, surely, Silver and his team of managers have been working tirelessly since the Lakers were crowned champions of the 2019-20 season on October 11, to study the most successful route to make way for next edition of the best basketball league in the world.

This is where Silver and Fernando VII begin to share that common philosophy, but money, apparently, has caused their paths to start to fork.

Until recently, everything pointed to the NBA had set the peephole as of January 18, 2021 –A holiday in the United States that commemorates the birth of Dr. Martín Luther King, Jr.–, a fact that did not escape anyone due to the historical importance of the figure of Dr. King, Jr. as well as the current situation of the movement of Black Lives Matter in American society.

This date allowed, a priori, a wide margin for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to subside to the point of allowing the presence of the public in the stands of the NBA pavilions, given the important economic injection that fans represent for the league coffers -40% of total income, according to Adam Silver himself-.

But seeing that the health outlook is far from significantly improving, Silver seems to be on track to save economically what he can, with the calendar against him.

I explain.

If, as discussed, the NBA starts with the training camps on December 1 –12 days after Draft– the following situation would occur:

SEASON 2019-20

  • 8 teams (27%), ‘resting’ since March 11
  • 6 teams (20%), eliminated as of August 17
  • 8 teams (27%), eliminated as of September 2
  • 4 teams (13%), eliminated as of September 15
  • 2 teams (6.5%), eliminated as of September 27
  • 2 finalist teams (6.5%) top the league on October 11

Thus, 22 of the 30 teams (73%) they will have had three months to recover looking ahead to next season, with four more teams (13%) enjoying two and a half months.

In a normal season, the number of months off between seasons is usually as follows:

  • 14 teams (47%), with 5 ½: they do not qualify for the playoff
  • 8 teams (27%), with 5: eliminated in the 1st round
  • 4 teams (13%), with 4 ½: eliminated in the 2nd round
  • 2 teams (6.5%), with 4: eliminated in conference finals
  • 2 teams (6.5%), with 3 ½: finalist teams

That is, 14 of 30 teams (47%) in the 2019-20 NBA will have been able to rest at least the same time as the finalist teams from previous years: three and a half months.

Under the current context of the pandemic, and in view of the negative balance that the NBA has suffered this past season -according to the US news agency Associated Press, of 1500 million dollars (touches, in equal parts, 50 million per franchise) – added to the possible losses that the league will incur due to the more than probable absence of public in the pavilions, we reach the logical conclusion that The league wants to maximize any revenue stream that helps reduce such negative financial impact by exercising main life jacket agreements with regional sports-themed channels, whose contracts require the retransmission of a minimum of 70 matches per team.

Any schedule approach that prevents reaching that number of matches would imply lower income to cover the operating expenses of the franchises. Consequently, Silver is almost certainly forced to hasten the start of the new season.

The issue of assessing how this rush to start would impact on many of the players, accustomed to having a longer recovery period between season and season, would remain to be discussed another day.

In light of all of the above, Commissioner Silver and the owners of the 30 NBA franchises, sadly, with each passing day, cannot afford to be ‘dressed slowly’.

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