New plan: 19,798 empty seats. 2 available ones. Each costs $1M each. Give some to charity.
When a family friend told Raptors head coach Nurse about Tse’s death, the coach surprised the widow by emailing her his condolences via the following letter:
I just wanted to reach out on behalf of the Raptors, our players, and organization and say that you have our condolences. I understand Sandy was a big Raptors fan. It sure was an amazing run last year and hopefully you have a lot of good memories together. I just wanted to reach out to you …. again on behalf of myself and the Raptors to let you know we will be thinking and praying for you and your family.”
Bruce, a family law lawyer, was awestruck by his gesture and offered the following reply to the coach:
“To receive your kind message during this difficult time means more than I could tell you. It is extremely kind of you to reach out. My husband I are season seat holders and we and our daughter Maura love your/our Raptors. We were at most games last year including the amazing championship run. I included a photo of my husband with the Larry OB trophy in his obit. I hope everyone in the Raptors organization and their families are remaining healthy.”
While the idea of a bubble and keeping players isolated — in order to finish the season, complete the playoffs, or both — seems like a decent concept, it is just that; a concept, and it’s just the first step.
Silver has said that in order for the idea to become a reality, the first priority would be to assure daily testing of all players and staff for the coronavirus so that there can be confidence in health and safety. Until testing is widespread and readily available to healthcare workers and those at risk in the general population, Silver is not willing to take tests that could go to others in order to use them for the sake of basketball.
After assuring the safety of everyone involved, there is a litany of details that would have to be ironed out. How would everyone get to Orlando or Las Vegas? Commercial travel? Chartered flights? Would they need to be quarantined and isolated before interacting with each other? Are families going to be accompanying those headed to the self-contained bubble city?
For those not associated with the NBA, there are concerns and logistical problems as well. There would have to be fully staffed hotels and restaurants. If those employees were able to come and go from the bubble, it would defeat the purpose. So, all of the employees would also need accommodations within the bubble.
Then there’s basketball to think about. The players are going to need time to get back into shape. Would they be playing out any regular season games or will they just play postseason ball? Would there be exhibitions? Will teams be playing seven-game playoff series?
The timing of everything matters, and how long the league would spend in a given city completing the 2019-20 season is important because there will be ripple effects that span through the draft, free agency and into the next season.
There is so much uncertainty with the coronavirus pandemic, but one thing is for sure: the salary cap will be lowered, according to league sources. On the surface, that makes it advantageous to build around younger players on cheaper contracts.
That said, if Rose has young assets to tempt the Thunder this offseason, sliding Paul into cap space will be easier than fitting in a top free agent. That’s because the Knicks would have to give up pacts such as those of Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox to make the trade.
According to sources, with the pandemic creating an economic crisis for the NBA, teams might be eager to unload their giant contracts. Because the cap won’t be as high, the luxury tax looms larger. OKC has been fearful of the luxury tax, having once dumped James Harden.
“The CBA was not built for extended pandemics,” Silver reportedly said on the call.
But the call wasn’t all doom and gloom.
Silver was asked about potential drop dead dates for the resumption of the current season and suggested to the PA that the league was prepared to go well into June if need be before making any definitive calls on the resumption of the 2019-20 season.
He said ownership within the NBA remains uniformly interested in seeing a playoff conclusion to the current year.
As for the various scenarios about how the league would re-open, Silver suggested it’s probably the safest scenario to limit host sites to just one or two in order to ensure safety of the players as much as possible. He said Orlando and Las Vegas at this point would be the two most likely such sites to host.
But the issue of all issues remains testing if the NBA, or any other league, is going to get back to playing.
Playing in a bubble and staying isolated from the general public is one thing, but until they can test and re-test and ensure they are not bringing any individuals carrying the COVID-19 virus into their midst, it’s a losing battle.
Now the availability of the tests — particularly in the U.S. where testing has been so poorly handled — is very much an issue right now, but Silver suggested that in a couple of months time, when the league would realistically be looking at resuming, that would not be a problem.
New York Knicks
Perhaps Leon Rose can bring some much-needed stability to MSG, though that’s little guarantee after two decades of misery under owner James Dolan. The Knicks need to pick a path and stick to it, and their next coach has to align with the front office’s vision. Whatever that may be. The mixed messages in New York have been increasingly frustrating in recent seasons.
The Knicks’ preferred path is pretty clear. Last year’s free agency proved New York can’t simply clear cap space and lure elite talent if the organization is a dumpster fire. The franchise needs to show some progress, even at a moderate pace. The development of R.J. Barrett, Mitchell Robinson and the next lottery pick is paramount. This doesn’t have to be a 50-win team, or even a .500 one. But it’s hard to envision any top free agent in ’21 or beyond joining a 60-loss Knicks team. There needs to be at least a modicum of respectability before the true rebuild.
So who could push the Knicks out of the gutter? Tom Thibodeau is the hot name at the moment, and while that is currently largely chatter, his development of the Bulls’ young players lends credence to a potential candidacy. But the most appealing option may come from just a borough away. Kenny Atkinson did a masterful job developing young talent in Brooklyn, building the league’s laughing stock into a playoff team in just three seasons. City schadenfreude aside, New York would be smart to consider Atkinson.
Brooklyn’s dismissal of Atkinson was a touch surprising, and perhaps they’ll come to regret the decision if the Durant-Irving duo doesn’t vault the Nets into Finals contention. But considering the talent on the roster and the premier location, Brooklyn is in prime position to make an impact coaching hire this offseason.
Tyronn Lue makes obvious sense as an option with the Nets following his three straight Finals in Cleveland, and Mike D’Antoni may be the ideal candidate if Houston decides to move on from the 69-year-old head coach. Durant and Irving are known as mercurial personalities. D’Antoni has the temperament and experience to handle both the expectations and star power. One other pipe dream idea: Gregg Popovich. He could potentially cap a legendary career with one more title, and there would be no shortage of quality restaurant options at his disposal. Seems like a win-win for Popovich, though that idea is currently more fantasy than reality.
3. Orlando and Vegas Could Share Bubble City Duties
If NBA games are played again this year it seems as though the league is focused on the “bubble city” concept in which players, team personnel, and likely a few select media members and cameramen are quarantined in one or two locations for the duration of the season.
The league has been considering Vegas and Orlando as potential bubble sites and is reportedly looking into splitting the Eastern and Western Conferences and using both locations, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
4. A Three-Week Training Camp is Needed
Even though the Raptors plan to re-open their training facility next week, the NBA is still planning on holding a formal training period before returning to games, according to Wojnarowski.
Ideally this training period would be at least three weeks, Silver said.