Commissioner Adam Silver sounded an optimistic tone when discussing the possible return of NBA fans next season, with the caveat that a vaccine might be necessary to fill home arenas to capacity.
Speaking on Wednesday from Orlando to reporters at his annual press conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Silver spoke of his hopes that NBA games could again include spectators -- in partially stocked seats at a minimum.
"With appropriate protocols in terms of distancing, and advanced testing, you will be able to bring fans back into arenas," Silver said. "It's certainly our goal. But it's dependent on some additional advancements. Rapid testing may be the key here."
In addition to his desire to see happy customers watching basketball again in 2021, Silver and NBA owners have pragmatic cause for bringing a live audience back: Money. Some reported estimates believe approximately 40 percent of league profits comes from all the revenue streams flowing when fans attend games, from tickets, concessions, parking and in-arena merchandise sales.
But Silver continued to remain non-committal whether fans will return for sure next season, or if the league will again be forced to conduct a regular season in a bubble set-up -- in one or two locations with all teams, players and personnel limited in travel and recreation.
Whether or not fans are allowed to return next season, several other issues will need to be worked out before a next season even begins, starting with when that season will actually start. Silver again mentioned he is looking to either December or January as possible windows to begin next season, but he is first holding out for more scientific assurances that all involved can remain safe and responsible no matter which plan the league utilizes.
Another major item to tackle involves labor details. Many basic league details for a 2020-21 season are up in the air, including when free agency will begin or even what the salary cap will be. But Silver does not anticipate rugged bargaining sessions in this uncertain environment because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I don't have expectations of labor issues ... there's no doubt there are issues on the table that have to be negotiated," Silver said. "I think while no doubt there will be issues and difficult negotiations ahead, I think we'll work them out as we always have."
--Field Level Media