As the NBA’s hiatus in response to the coronavirus pandemic has pushed past seven weeks, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James remains steadfast in his commitment to salvaging some sort of conclusion to the season.
“As soon as it’s safe we would like to finish our season,” read part of a tweet James posted Thursday in response to speculation that some in league circles are divided about the goal of resuming play. “I’m ready and our team is ready. Nobody should be canceling anything.”
Earlier this month on a Zoom call with reporters, James said “I don’t know if I will be able to have any closure,” when asked how he would react to the 2019-20 season being abandoned for good because of the coronavirus.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who has spoken on the possible resumption of play a number of times during the NBA hiatus, was among the front-office executives to address a potential return Thursday, telling CNN that he was “cautiously optimistic we’ll be able to finish the season” but that he expected fans not to be in attendance for games. Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry and San Antonio Spurs CEO R.C. Buford also expressed hopes that the NBA would resume at some point.
Buford was among the NBA team presidents on a call Thursday, where they emerged with beliefs that there are still ways to resume the season.
“Every intention is to return to play and try to create the best environment we can for the league and for the fans,” Buford said after the call. “And we’re all on board for that.”
While James’ motivation to return to play is apparent — the Lakers had the No. 1 record in the Western Conference at 49-14 when the schedule came to a screeching halt March 11 — not every team can claim the same situation.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters this week that his team is “absolutely in offseason mode right now,” acknowledging his mindset has a lot to do with the Warriors’ last-place 15-50 record.
“The suspension came at an interesting time, and it really made a difference, depending on where your team stood in the standings,” Kerr said. “So I’ve talked to some of my fellow coaches who are coaching teams that are right in the thick of the playoff hunt. They’re trying desperately to stay in touch with their team, some of them are even doing group workouts on Zoom with their training staff, and they’re trying to find hoops for their players to shoot at where they’re able to do so.
“It’s different for us because we were down to 17 games, but we were out of the playoffs. It feels like the end of the season for our team. It just does.”
Kerr’s hunch could end up being correct even if the NBA does figure out a way to play games, should it fast-forward to the playoffs and do away with the rest of the regular season.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver had said he would not be ready to make any recommendation on what direction the league should go until May 1 at the earliest.
“I think there is still too much uncertainty at this point to say precisely how we move forward,” Silver told reporters on a conference call April 17. “I’ll add that the underlying principle remains the health and well-being of NBA players and everyone involved. We begin with that as paramount.”
Buford said the teams and league officials are discussing countless options, none of which have been finalized and none of which have been detailed specifically by the NBA. Silver has said the league has been open to any idea thrown its way about when, where and how to resume.
Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti said his team is assessing the circumstances as they are presented.
“As an organization, we’re following,” Presti said. “We’re going to follow the direction that we’re provided, and we’re going to do it as long as it is safe and putting everyone that wears the Thunder logo or comes in contact with it and our fans in a safe environment above everything. We’ll work with whatever circumstances we’re handed and be a good partner.”
Before there can be games, there must be practices, and before there can be practices, there must be workouts.
The NBA said Monday that no players would be allowed to work out in their team facilities before May 8, and even then, strict social distancing and safety measures would have to be put into place.
On a conference call Monday detailing the safety protocols that will have to be adhered to, Lakers players sounded “eager” to make the first step toward returning to play, sources told ESPN.
Presti said the Thunder are still evaluating whether to reopen their practice facility next month.
“We’re going to continue to speak with our players about that whole entire concept of coming back,” Presti said, “but the league has given some flexibility, obviously, to the teams to determine what is best for them.”
ESPN’s Royce Young and The Associated Press contributed to this report.