Everyone in the world has the same problem.
But as basketball grinds to a halt around the world, Roland has had to cancel training clinics, now his primary source of income, in Oklahoma, Dallas, Edmonton, Iowa, and Australia. And all conversations he was having with agents about helping college players get ready for the draft have been iced.
The NBA has agreed with the National Basketball Players Association to continue paying out contracts for players in the NBA and the G League—for now, at least. But those who make a living off the NBA without working in the NBA—agents, trainers—have been thrust into limbo, unsure of how to go about their business or when their next paycheck will come.
“Financially it’s a blow for a lot of, not just trainers, but a lot of people that just work solely on commission,” says Alex Bazzell, a skill development trainer who has worked with Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, and Trae Young, among others. “Our main moneymaking season is from mid-March until the end of October.”
With so much unknown, Bazzell says he is preparing for a reality where he’s not able to make money for a year and a half. Roland has the same concern. “People are struggling to get toilet paper and I’m trying to send them basketball drills so I can eat,” Roland says. “It’s a weird time, man.”
So with 19.5 seconds remaining in overtime and the Hawks trailing by seven to the New York Knicks, head coach Lloyd Pierce checked Carter into the game and the emotions began to hit him as the home crowd chanted.
“I kind of made eye contact with coach (Pierce) and he’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah,'” Carter said on the latest episode of “Winging it with Vince Carter and Annie Finberg.” “Right then, it’s like a chill just hit me.”
Carter was given the ball on the next possession and drilled a triple from the top of the 3-point arc as the Knicks left him unattended.
“I can say this now, who knows how the season ends and navigates, but, regardless – I won with either result, or either way this ends up,” Carter said. “If that was the last game and that was the last shot, I made my last shot and I’m cool with it, and I feel good about my career and how things ended.”
— #RingerNBA (@ringernba) April 1, 2020
The four Nets players who tested positive for the coronavirus have cleared their 14-day self-isolation and quarantine, general manager Sean Marks said in a conference call on Wednesday.
“So far, everybody is healthy,” Marks said. “They are still practicing social distancing like the rest of us. They are cleared like everybody, like the rest of the team and the staff right now. … The entire travel party, Nets organization right now, basketball operations department is symptom free.”
The coronavirus outbreak hit the Nets harder than any other NBA team. The Nets announced four players — including NBA superstar Kevin Durant — tested positive for the coronavirus on March 17, with three asymptomatic players and one player experiencing symptoms.
Kevin Durant announced he was one of the four Nets players to test positive for the coronavirus. “Everyone, be careful, take care of yourself and quarantine,” he told The Athletic. “We’re going to get through this.”
MLSE leaders take pay reduction
Top Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment executives are taking pay cuts in the wake of COVID-19 shutting down the company’s sports and entertainment business.
A memo to MLSE employees from president and CEO Michael Friisdahl obtained by The Canadian Press outlines the voluntary pay reductions as well as other steps to help mitigate pandemic-related losses.
“The halt in operations is having a dramatic impact on our business,” Friisdahl wrote. “Not surprisingly, the sudden halt of all games and events on March 11th has had a significant impact to our revenue. At the same time many of our costs continue, which clearly puts financial pressure on our business.
“The situation is further compounded by the uncertainty and indefinite postponement of our operations.”
Friisdahl said, effective Wednesday, MLSE’s executive leadership team is taking a temporary salary reduction of 20 to 25 per cent. Given MLSE has also opted not to pay out annual bonuses to full-time employees, the reduction in pay for the leadership group will be close to 50 per cent.
Ujiri praised the quick response of league commissioner Adam Silver, and the Jazz front office.
“I was in a meeting with Adam in New York a few weeks before that and he told me about some of the meetings he had had with experts on this and where it was going. So the NBA was really on this and I commend them for that,” Ujiri said.
Ujiri was on the road scouting when the Raptors were in Utah. He returned immediately. Soon after Gobert’s positive test, the Raptors players and staff underwent testing — none were positive — and then self-isolated for two weeks.
“While all this is going on, we start thinking of mental health and how people are relating to this and how people are reacting to this immediately . . . as you know, we had a few players that were in direct contact with the Utah game and situation, we abided by the rules and we’re proud that we did that and we have to stick to that and continue to plug away,” he said.
Any other year at this time, Ujiri and other Raptors staff members would be on the road scouting for the upcoming NBA draft. Instead, he spoke with reporters for more than half an hour on Wednesday, his first public comments since the NBA shuttered.
He opened with: “It’s good to hear you guys’ voices, I hope everybody is keeping safe and abiding by the rules.”
He thinks of Africa, his homeland, and how to prevent the coronavirus from decimating a continent he loves, a world he wants to see survive this.
“It’s getting ahead of it, and I’m concerned,” Ujiri said in a wide-ranging conference call with basketball beat reporters Wednesday. “Hopefully the underprivileged areas like the refugee camps, the poorer areas, the not-so-privileged areas all over the world — not just Africa — are taken care of in this and are looked after in this.”
The basketball world that he usually inhabits has been turned upside down for weeks now, ever since the NBA became the first North American pro league to suspend its season in light of the pandemic. How it comes back, if it comes back, and what it looks like will all be decided in the future. In many ways, it’s the least of his worries right now.
“I’m hoping (the season can be salvaged),” he said in the half-hour discussion. “That’s all of our hope. We love our game and we love what we do.
“Honestly, for now, I think we salvage the NBA season by abiding by the rules and doing everything that we have to do as people, as a community, everything we possibly can. This is not about the NBA, NBA players, NBA fans. It’s about the whole world. This is something that hit globally.”
The Raptors have essentially hit pause on the business of basketball.
“Honestly, to be fair, it’s not where our minds are at right now,” Ujiri said. “This is a crucial time for the world. Those things will come. I’m fine. We’re fine. It’s honestly the last thing on my mind. I miss the game, man. I miss basketball. You have concerns – I’m concerned for my team, I’m concerned for my family, I’m concerned for the world and I’m concerned about this pandemic and how we beat it, how we fight it. We have to win this one.”
Ujiri is hopeful that the 2019-20 NBA season can be salvaged, at least in some capacity. Maybe it’s just the playoffs. Maybe it’s a condensed version of the playoffs. But the truth is he isn’t sure how, when or even if that will be possible. Nobody is.
In such uncertain times, it’s impossible to know what comes next. The longer the league is in limbo, the more questions there will be. Will the players continue to get paid in full? How will the lost revenue affect the salary cap? If the season is cancelled, what happens to expiring contracts like Ibaka’s, Gasol’s or VanVleet’s? When’s the draft? When’s free agency? Does the NBA calendar get reset or altered permanently?
These are all things that will have to be addressed at some point, but it still seems weird to ask some of those questions, let alone reasonably expect answers. What’s going on in the world right now is so much bigger than basketball. It’s bigger than sports.
“I think the way we salvage the NBA season is to abide by the rules and do everything that we have to do as people, as a community,” said Ujiri. “This is not about the NBA. It’s about the whole world. This is global. It’s something that hits globally. We can plan the NBA all we want and for this to come back all we want, but because it affects the whole world something is going to stall that in one way or another if we have not played by the rules.”
“I love the game, I love what I do but right now, honestly, it’s not about that. We keep working, we keep trying to do our best, but we have to abide by the rules now. This is the time for us to really isolate and hopefully in the near future we can get back to all doing what we love to do.”
“I’ve lost where the other world is,” Ujiri said on a conference call Wednesday, his first comments since the NBA suspended play on March 11 and so many things across the globe have been upended due to COVID-19, the virus that has brought much of the world to a halt. “… We’re blessed that the last five, six years, however many, we’re always preparing for the post-season at this time. Very many things happening at this time. Until you said so, I haven’t really thought about it like that.”
Ujiri was on a scouting trip when the Raptors were playing in Utah and against Rudy Gobert, the Jazz centre whose positive test two days later prompted the NBA to put the season on hiatus, an event that is often pointed to as the tipping point in North America’s response to the spread of the virus.
He came to Toronto immediately and began assessing an entirely different set of priorities than were on his plate previously.
Are his team and the members of his organization safe? Is his family safe? What can he, the Raptors and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment be doing to help manage an unprecedented global event?
“Everybody is human, and because we just played against Utah, you know, like there was reaction … I don’t want to say panic because … I think people, players everybody was really calm but concerned. I mean, rightly so,” Ujiri said. “And so we have to take action. I have to take action on deciding you know, like, we were at risk? At that point, you know, like we have to just figure out a way to address that for the people. I’m learning quickly about the rules and regulations of this and how we could really apply them, and then take action.”
But like everyone else he’s quickly realized there is only so much that can be done. For once he doesn’t have any more concrete answers than anyone else. The person who is in an airplane more than most heads of state has to stay home, keep his distance and wash his hands as much as possible.
“I never thought my hands could be this dry,” he said.
Permanent Schedule Shift: B+
The current suspension of the 2019-20 season could impact the 2020-21 season, shifting the league’s opening night toward Christmas 2021 if there is a significant delay before games end. And while the current hiatus remains depressing for fans across the globe, its effect could be a net benefit for years to come.
Imagine the NBA calendar as follows, beginning in with the 2019-20 season returning in June or early July. The league could hold its playoffs through late August, then hold a slightly-abbreviated draft and free agency period in the fall. Games could resume near Christmas, and if the NBA opts to hold an 82-game season (or close) in 2020-21, we could continue to wrap up the playoffs in August 2021. What is currently viewed as a temporary change could be a permanent alteration, and the move may be healthiest for the league over the next decade.
Rather than struggle for attention against football each fall, the NBA could kick off with a bang on Christmas, dominate the spring headlines, then hold its playoffs in the slog of baseball season. Sounds like an ideal schedule, right? It may have taken a global pandemic to spark the change, but permanently shifting the NBA calendar could be a prudent step for the league in the next decade.
Galloway, 28, and his teammates were notified of Rudy Gobert’s positive test, confirming Rose’s intel, and the official suspension of the NBA season in the locker room after the game. Pistons players were in a state of shock, Galloway said, as they showered, got dressed and headed back home to Detroit.
Galloway’s focus then shifted to the safety of his wife, mother-in-law and young son, trying to find out what happens next.
Upon returning to Detroit, the Pistons’ traveling party received tests through a private company. While Galloway tested negative, Wood, who’s made a full recovery and is doing fine, tested positive. Galloway then spent 14 days in self-isolation at his home in the Detroit area, trying to distance himself from his own family— which can’t be easy physically or psychologically— as much as he could.
“I just stayed in my room,” Galloway said, confined to just saying a quick hello and goodbye to his family. “I didn’t wanna come out as much, just to be very cautious.”
Orlando Magic two-way forward B.J. Johnson was at the team’s G-League affiliate in nearby Lakeland, getting ready to make the hour-long drive northeast to Orlando for Thursday’s practice when the news broke. Lakeland was on a six-game winning streak when the G-League season was canceled, a tough blow for the 24-year-old who was getting significant developmental minutes with the team.
“I mean it makes sense because we travel on commercial flights,” Johnson said of the G-League. “You couldn’t really be too mad about it.”
For G-Leaguers not on two-way contracts, their seasons ended in an instant. Luckily, the NBA said that they’d still get paid as if the rest of the season went on as normal, but a lot of much-needed experience for young players won’t be made up.
“It was more like, what are we gonna do for the next two, three months,” Johnson said of the G-Leaguers.
Several NBA players who have overcome the coronavirus plan to donate their blood for an experimental treatment that could ultimately help high-risk patients to overcome the virus, according to Dr. Michael Joyner, a member of the leadership team of the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. The therapy is called convalescent plasma, and it utilizes the antibodies in the blood donated from recovered patients to fight the virus in patients that are sick.
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart confirmed he is one of the players planning to participate. Smart announced via social media that he had been cleared of the virus by the Massachusetts Department of Health earlier this week. At least three other players also plan to donate their blood to the cause, but the identities of those individuals are not known at this time.
Dr. Joyner plans to work with the players in order to find suitable donation sites. Due to their physical size and training level, NBA players could be especially valuable when it comes to plasma donations.
“These are big men with blood volumes, and as a result [they] have a lot of plasma volume,” Joyner said. “Frequently people who are physically trained also have an increase in their plasma volume from what you would expect from them just being regular-sized guys … We believe [the treatment] can be disease-modifying and reduce duration and severity in some patients,”
Over the weekend, the NBA reached out to team doctors and encouraged players who have recovered from the coronavirus to consider donating their plasma to the project. The NBA also donated $100,000 to the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project as part of the recently launched NBA Together campaign. The NBA season has been indefinitely suspended since March 11 when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, followed by a plethora of other players and NBA figures from across the league’s landscape, including New York Knicks owner James Dolan and former MVP Kevin Durant.
After it was announced the Warriors would play games at Chase Center without fans last month, team president Rick Welts was asked during a press conference whether the loss in ticket revenue might affect the salary cap. Welts, as well as general manager Bob Myers, acknowledged it would.
“Our player compensation system is based on basketball-related income,” Welts said. “And this will affect basketball-related income.”
“The answer we do know is it will,” Myers added. “To what degree, nobody knows.”
Hours after that press conference, the spread of the coronavirus forced the NBA to suspend its season indefinitely, presenting an unprecedented financial challenge for the league. Following years of financial growth, the combination of strained business relations with China and the coronavirus pandemic will bring the salary cap below previous projections. For the Warriors, it will present an obstacle as they seek to vault back into contention next season.
The Warriors will go into next season with the league’s highest-paid player in Stephen Curry, as well as the most expensive payroll among the 30 teams. After a 15-50 season, the Warriors had planned to spend this off-season in order to contend next season. The fallout of the league’s indefinite hiatus could change that calculus. Though the Warriors are among the NBA’s most valuable franchises, their salary cap and related flexibility will be based on the leaguewide financial windfall.
According to several reports — including a FiveThirtyEight.com analysis that factored in the loss of ticket, merchandise and food sales and other sources of revenue — the cost of a cancelled 2019-20 regular season and post-season could exceed $1 billion (U.S.).
Even playing games without fans, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst indicated is most likely, would salvage little income leaguewide. Between things like tickets and concessions, NBA teams average roughly $2 million in revenue per regular-season game, while playoff games generate roughly $3 million per night (with the Warriors on the high end of the spectrum). With 259 regular-season games postponed, plus an estimate of playoff games, that translates to about $750 million in lost game-day revenue.