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NBA Games in August? Bucks owner is hopeful about return

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

As Joe Tsai told a class of Stanford engineers last week, the owners of Bucks —and Lakers— are among the most committed and optimistic about a return to play this summer. Makes sense.

“The reality is everybody is still trying to figure things out with the hope that maybe we can reopen the season —the current season— because ... think about this: the Los Angeles Lakers or the Milwaukee Bucks, they’re in first place when the season got suspended. There’s a chance of them going for the championship. Of course, they want to play. The players want to play. The ownership wants to play.”

Now, Marc Lasry, the Bucks owner, confirms what the Nets owner said. He’s optimistic about a return to play and suggested that could happen in August, three months from now. The process has begun, he told CNBC’s Scott Wapner, with the planned opening of practice facilities starting Friday. But he also said there are hurdles...

“We’re opening all the practice facilities, I think on May 8. Then, you’ve got local governments that still have stay at home, but I think you’ll see over the course of the month — at the end of the month, hopefully— every team has opened their practice facilities. I think that will be the first step. Then, once we can end up testing and having that testing on a daily basis. I think you’ll start seeing fan-less games and hopefully you’ll start seeing that in August.”

Indeed, the opening will be slow. No scrimmages, just conditioning. Only four players will be allowed in the facilities at any one time. There’s also a limit on how many staff will be allowed in the building and head coaches are banned ... at least at the beginning of the process. Moreover, the Nets and other teams headquartered in stay-at-home orders are unlike to have as much latitude in opening up than teams in other cities and states with more lenient stay-at-home orders or none at all. Will that be a competitive disadvantage?

The big issue, as Lasry said, will be the availability of diagnostic tests. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA expects to need around 15,000 coronavirus tests in order to safely begin playing games again. Lasry, however, was the first NBA official to publicly confirm that testing of players will be required on a daily basis. The NBA has told teams that they cannot offer tests to players unless they have symptoms of the coronavirus.

Also, Lasry didn’t detail whether a return-to-play would mean going directly to the playoffs.

How much planning has the NBA done on fan-less games? Hard to say, but there have been reports that game staff would be reduced, any cameras would have to be robotic and game calls will originate not from half court but instead from remote locations. Also, interactive social media would be utilized to a greater degree to help fans adapt.

Adam Silver and union chief Michele Roberts are expected to hold a conference call Friday with the players as teams begin reopening practice facilities, according to ESPN. This call will take place two days after a conference call between the league and head coaches.

Nothing, sources note, is certain and only nine days ago, Lasry suggested, also in an interview with Wapner, that games could begin in July.