In recent weeks, officials within the NBA and NBPA have been collaborating in assessing the viability of multiple blood-testing devices for the coronavirus that could provide accurate results within a matter of minutes, a process that would hopefully enable the league to track the virus in what is considered a critical first step toward resuming play in the near future.
Multiple league sources close to the situation said the league and players union have been looking at what those familiar with the matter describe as “diabetes-like” blood testing in which someone could, with the prick of a finger, be tested quickly, and results could be gained inside of 15 minutes.
The Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories began shipping its rapid-response tests across the U.S. last week, according to a Washington Post report. The tests, which have been approved by the FDA, are said to deliver results in five-to-13 minutes.
The league sources stressed that this matter is in the exploratory phase and that there is no clear timetable as to when the efficacy of any such device might be proven. They also stressed that advances in science and medicine are proceeding at a rapid pace, with collaboration across borders, which offers hope that breakthrough solutions could be possible much sooner than later.
Based on more than a dozen interviews with general managers and athletic training officials around the league in recent days, there is a collective sense that, in general, discovering effective methods for rapid-result testing is the critical hurdle that must be cleared for games of any type to take place in the coming weeks and months.
“Rapid-testing results are key to return to work, return to sports, everything,” one NBA general manager told ESPN, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Whatever job you have and environment you work in, if you’re interacting with people, we’re all going to have to feel safe doing that. Sports isn’t any different.”
“While our foremost priority remains everyone’s health and well-being, the league office continues to evaluate all options for a return to play,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN. “Any decision on a date to restart the season is likely weeks away and will be made in consultation with public health experts and in line with governmental directives and guidance.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver does not expect any decisions to be made until at least May about the possible resumption of the 2019-20 season, saying the coronavirus pandemic simply makes it too difficult to project what will happen next.
Silver spoke on Monday on the NBA’s Twitter account as part of the league’s new #NBATogether initiative, in a conversation hosted by Turner Sports’ Ernie Johnson.
“Essentially, what I’ve told my folks over the last week is that we just should just accept that, at least for the month of April, we won’t be in a position to make any decisions,” Silver said. “And I don’t think that necessarily means on May 1 we will be.”
The NBA was the first of the major U.S. pro leagues to shut down because of the COVID-19 threat, doing so after Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert became the first player in the league to test positive for the virus. The league’s regular season was to end April 15, and the playoffs were to begin April 18.
Silver said no decision has been made about whether the regular season will resume, or if the league — assuming the season can begin again — will go right to the playoffs.
Major changes to pre-draft process
The NBA has also told teams that they may not conduct or attend any workouts with draft-eligible players during the league’s coronavirus hiatus, a major change from typical procedures.
Teams also are being prohibited “from watching, requesting, or sharing any video [live or recorded] of a draft-eligible player or prospective early entry player taking part in a workout” during the league’s shutdown. The NBA told teams of the rule changes Monday in a memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
Teams will be allowed to conduct interviews by phone or video, though they will be capped at a total of four hours with any draft prospect. They can also send questionnaires to players in advance of any interviews.
“It’s too early to project or predict where we’ll be in a few weeks.”@NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks with @TurnerSportsEJ on the current state of the league. #NBATogether pic.twitter.com/8UUmg3r8K5
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 6, 2020
A league-wide work-from-home order officially includes the 2020 NFL Draft.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to teams Monday, later published by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, outlining the parameters for the remote working protocol during the draft, which begins April 23 and runs through April 25. Teams were told to prepare to conduct the entirety of the draft “entirely outside of their facilities and in a fully virtual format.”
“We want all NFL personnel to comply with government directives and to model safe and appropriate health practices,” Goodell wrote. “Our staff will carry out its responsibilities in the same way, operating in separate locations outside of our offices. And after consulting with medical advisors, we cannot identify an alternative that is preferable from a medical and public health perspective, given the varying needs of clubs, the need to properly screen participants and the unique risk factors that individual club employees may face.”
The event, which will still be televised, is scheduled to include guest interviews and appearances from players, coaches and general managers connecting via video conference.
With coronavirus cases and deaths still on the rise, Goodell followed the instructions of state and federal officials in canceling the live event, which was booked for Las Vegas.
But team facilities are all closed and rather than a prospect and league party in the NFL’s newest market, Las Vegas, players have been invited to participate virtually from their own homes.
“All clubs should dedicate their personnel and technology resources toward preparing for a fully virtual Draft, with personnel in separate locations,” Goodell wrote Monday. “Our understanding is that many clubs are already well advanced in preparing for a virtual Draft and we are confident that all clubs can take the necessary steps to make the 2020 Draft a successful event.”
After meeting with the commissioners of several major sports leagues on Saturday, Mr. Trump discussed resuming sports in August, ESPN reported, though Mr. Trump later told reporters at the White House, “I can’t tell you a date, but I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”
“I want fans back in the arenas,” he said at the White House, adding, “As soon as we can, obviously.’’
Still, a range of sports leaders and public officials have cast doubt on normalcy returning anytime soon, and even fall events face uncertainty over concerns that a renewal of mass gatherings could undermine any gains made in the fight against the pandemic by then.
The N.F.L., which is scheduled to conduct its annual draft from April 23 to 25 by videoconference, has said it is focused on not altering the regular season, which is scheduled to begin on Sept. 10. But some team owners say there is a good chance the international games in London and Mexico City will be moved back to the United States, and one owner raised the possibility that the season could be reduced from 16 games to as few as 10.
An N.F.L. spokesman, Brian McCarthy, said the league’s decisions will be “guided by the latest advice from medical and public health officials, as well as current and future government regulations.”
The N.F.L.’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, was more definitive.
“As long as we’re still in a place where when a single individual tests positive for the virus that you have to quarantine every single person who was in contact with them in any shape, form or fashion, then I don’t think you can begin to think about reopening a team sport,” Sills told NFL.com last week. “Because we’re going to have positive cases for a very long time.”
The N.B.A. and N.H.L., which were deep into their 2019-20 seasons before they were suspended last month, may be unable to finish their seasons because the cities they play in have restrictions on nonessential travel and because of the difficulty of acquiring enough test kits to ensure the safety of the players, team staffs and workers in arenas. Mike Bass, a spokesman for the N.B.A., which would have started its postseason on April 18, said, “Any decision on a date to restart the season is likely weeks away and will be made in consultation with public health experts and in line with governmental directives and guidance.”
Major League Soccer, which had started its regular season, and Major League Baseball, which had its spring training interrupted, are looking at truncated schedules. Both leagues have also contemplated playing games in empty stadiums, though it is unclear how risky that might be to players and to employees who produce the games. Officials in both leagues said they prefer to play with fans in the seats.
The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered global sport, with North America’s National Basketball Association and Europe’s football leagues suspended and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games postponed. Others are at risk, including Indian Premier League cricket due to begin this month and the start of American football’s NFL season in September.
Yet to fall off the calendar is The Open on July 16-19, one of the four annual golf “majors”, which makes up the vast majority of the R & A’s annual revenues of around £90m. Mr Slumbers says all options are on the table for this year’s tournament in Kent, England and the organisation has “rainy day reserves” to withstand the financial hit should it be forced to postpone or cancel the event.
But Mr Slumbers — in common with sports administrators around the world — is also thinking further ahead. He is contemplating how to reduce expenses for future tournaments, such as installing a reduced number of grandstands for spectators or having fewer golfers compete. “The impact of this black swan event will make us think of how we manage the financial risk of The Open Championship,” says Mr Slumbers.
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Sporting groups across the world are facing up to the same problems. With the help of big money television and branding deals, they have transformed games played recreationally for decades into multibillion-dollar enterprises. Leading athletes are protagonists in unscripted, unmissable dramas for thousands in stadiums or billions watching on screens. Sport is a uniting passion. And, until the coronavirus shutdown, a growing global market, with sales in sport services and related goods worth $489bn in 2018.
Now the business model of many sports is under threat. While each one has different characteristics, most of their money is made in three ways: broadcasting deals, sponsorship contracts and “match day” income from tickets, hospitality and spending during events. These revenue streams are drying up.
There is optimism in some quarters that the lockdown measures will be a short-term blip to business. But many sports executives believe there will be lasting disruption. The willingness of spectators to rush back to crowded stadiums will be tested. Many governing bodies are scrambling to reorganise calendars to ensure delayed tournaments take place later this year.
“[This] is the biggest disaster to hit the sports world in 75 years and the biggest challenge our business has ever faced,” Simon Denyer, chief executive of the television and internet sports streaming group DAZN, wrote in an internal
Greater changes await. Broadcasters are re-evaluating both the value of current deals and business models that are reliant on live sport to hold on to subscribers. Sponsors are slashing spending in response to an impending global recession. The pay packets of leading athletes will be depressed for months, if not years, to come.
Even those imagining a glorious future have had ambitions overturned. Leeds United is top of the Championship, the second tier of English football, and well placed for promotion to the Premier League, the sport’s most valuable domestic competition, where the club would earn an additional £150m in revenues. Instead, postponed fixtures have led the players to agree to pay cuts as they await games to restart.
“Imagine it for them, the players, coaches . . . they see the finish line, and this pandemic is stopping everything,” says Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani. “We’re all living and working on the edge.”
Analysts caution that it is too early to calculate the damage to sport businesses. Consultancy KPMG predicts the “Big Five” football leagues and their member clubs in England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy face a collective hit of almost €4bn in lost broadcasting, sponsorship and match day revenue if the remaining games in their seasons are not completed.
The Masters, which would have been played this week but was called off in response to the novel coronavirus, has been given a new home on the calendar, far later in the year.
The “intended dates” for this year’s Masters at Augusta National Golf Club are now Nov. 12-15, placing the prestigious tournament seven months after it was originally scheduled. “We want to emphasize that our future plans are incumbent upon favorable counsel and direction from health officials,” club chairman Fred Ridley wrote in a memo.
The average high temperature in Augusta, Ga., on Nov. 15 is 69 degrees, according to the website Weather Underground.
The decision comes with almost the entire sports world shut down because of the virus. Leagues across the globe are grappling the potential cancellation of their seasons, and golf has been in the thick of it. Also on Monday, the British Open was canceled for the first time since World War II. Previously, in March, the Players Championship was called off after the first round, as event organizers slammed the brakes on large gatherings.
Now, the question for all of these leagues and governing bodies, is how and when their businesses can resume. Golf has begun indicating a timeline for when it expects that to happen with its revamped calendar.
Although the British Open, scheduled for mid-July, was canceled, marquee golf action could be back as soon as a month later. The PGA of America said that the PGA Championship, which was originally set to take place in May, is now scheduled to tee off Aug. 6 and will remain at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
The USGA rescheduled the U.S. Open for one month after that, starting on Sept. 17. The tournament will stay at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., and had been originally set for the middle of June.
Then, after that, the Masters will come at not just an extremely late date for a golf major but also an unusual position in the calendar for the tournament, which annually pops off before golf’s other majors.
Stripling considers his climbing adventures an occupational hazard under the current circumstances, with the baseball season—and every other American professional league—on an indefinite pause because of the coronavirus pandemic. The hiatus has forced players to find creative ways to hone their skills, like Stephen Curry struggling to assemble a hoop in his driveway or Joey Gallo building a makeshift batting cage in his apartment.
But pitchers can’t do that. The very act of hurling a ball overhand 100 times or more every five days leaves pitchers in a perpetual state of risk for serious injury.
“A basketball player could have a gym to stay in shape and get shots up, so when they call, they’re ready to go in a matter of days,” Stripling said last week. “For a pitcher that’s, quite frankly, impossible.”
Avoiding injury requires pitchers to maintain a rigid schedule, with no room for even the slightest deviation from mid-February through September. During spring training, they progress backward from opening day to slowly prepare their arms for the rigor of the marathon known as a baseball season.
When training camps abruptly closed on March 12, two weeks before opening day, most starters had advanced to about 70 pitches per outing. Now, no calendar exists, leaving pitchers in a weird limbo. They need to keep throwing to remain fresh enough to begin the season quickly, without overdoing it and hurting their arms.
Nobody knows the right approach. Interviews with several MLB pitchers and coaches last week revealed just one common truth: Making the wrong choices now could result in serious consequences if the 2020 campaign happens.
“There certainly isn’t a scientific answer, because it’s never happened before,” Cincinnati Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson said. “There isn’t any sort of template for this.”
Johnson is trying to create one on the fly. He had all of his pitchers fill out a survey explaining their situation, such as whether they have a throwing partner or access to gym equipment. Then Johnson gave each of them recommendations for a plan based on their responses and offered advice about how to work out with simple household items.
Some pitchers have it easier than others. Stripling hasn’t thrown off a mound since everything stopped. He’s been hopping over a fence to get onto a field in Houston to throw and play long toss a couple of times a week along with Minnesota’s Tyler Duffey, Oakland’s Daniel Mengden and free agent Scott Kazmir.
Hedo Turkoglu to the Kings, no. 16
The best player in the 2000 draft never made an All-Star Game, never won a ring, was kind of a running joke for his last six seasons, and a reserve for most of his first four. But Turk did have a moment. He was the second-best player on the Magic’s Finals team in 2009, and his ability to shoot and handle the ball at his size helped pave the way for the point forwards of today. Stan Van Gundy even compared Turkoglu’s unique skill set to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s in an interview last year with The Ringer’s Kevin Clark: “We celebrate Giannis—and we should celebrate Giannis—and Hedo didn’t have the physical strength or talent of Giannis, but this was a 6-foot-10 guy who handled and passed like a point guard and shot the 3.” A touch strong, but when your closest competition is Mike Miller and Kenyon Martin, it’s enough to get you to the top of this draft class.
While I didn’t care much for the idea of abuelo Marquez, the discovery that I was one-quarter Spanish was interesting enough. And so when Rob Babcock signed Calderon away from Tau Ceramica (now known as Baskonia, coincidentally where Andrea Bargnani ended his career), my attention was piqued.
His rookie year was middling, with his pure point guard skill on display but his shaky defence already obvious and the complete lack of a 3-point shot looking problematic. Advanced stats didn’t hold him in high esteem, and him playing behind Mike James in James’ looter-in-the-riot season seemed fair. The Raptors then went out and landed T.J. Ford, seemingly locking Calderon into a reserve role long-term.
And so began the Jose Calderon Sisyphean Point Guard battle. It’s something I wrote about plenty when I was only writing as a hobby on the side. It was fascinating to me that over the years the Raptors would bring in a number of point guards to supplant Calderon, only for Calderon to continually prove the better starting option. It began, somewhat, with James, more on aesthetic term and age than performance. Calderon then transitioned into a He Should Play More All-Star in the Forderon years, then fought off Jarrett Jack and Jerryd Bayless. To this day, the first Rudy Gay trade remains nearly as important to the success of this Raptors’ era as the second, because who’s to say even Kyle Lowry could have beaten out Calderon for a starring role? (I am. Lowry is. It would have been the end of the Calderon victory cycle. But Calderon started at least part-time in Detroit, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Cleveland after leaving.)
I found something remarkably admirable in Calderon’s ability to oscillate between roles and quietly continue to outperform expectations and glossier options, all while profiling as a beloved teammate and franchise figure. That longevity had him atop the Raptors’ all-time leaderboard for assists until recently, and he remains one of the more decorated long-time Raptors from a statistical perspective. He also, of course, added the 3 to his game to become a lethal (if too unselfish) multi-level shooting threat, leading the league in 3-point percentage in 2012-13 and free-throw percentage in 2008-09.
While we are all social distancing and in quarantine, I'd like to bring positivity and reward talent and creativity. Starting with an open casting on April 8th on my IG @sergeibaka. If you are 18+ and want to participate, follow @ouenzeentertainment on Instagram first.
— Serge Ibaka (@sergeibaka) April 6, 2020
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto Raptors star Serge Ibaka will be hosting a live talent show on Instagram called “How Talented Are You?” to provide a platform for fans to showcase their talents and to donate to the novel coronavirus relief efforts.
The talent show, whose name plays off of Ibaka’s YouTube series titled “How Hungry Are You?”, will begin with an open casting call on the Raptors centre’s Instagram page.
“While we are all social distancing and in quarantine, I’d like to bring positivity and reward talent and creativity,” Ibaka said about the talent contest on Twitter.