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Adam Silver: ‘The data, not the date’ will determine NBA’s return to action –



The NBA was the first of the major sports leagues in North America to shut down in the face of COVID-19. More than a month later, they are no closer to knowing when they might return to action.

Pledging that it’s about “the data, not the date,” commissioner Adam Silver said the league can only gather information and wait on a Friday evening conference call which follows a regularly-scheduled board of governors meeting — one that would have normally taken place on the eve of the NBA playoffs.

“We all have to accept that we’re operating with incomplete facts here,” said Silver. “There is an enormous amount about the virus that is yet to be learned.”

He added: “We are not in any position to make a decision [about returning to play] and it’s not clear when we will be.”

Silver acknowledged that while “there is great symbolism around sports in [the United States] and to the extent that we do find a path back it will be very meaningful for Americans … we’re not at the point where we can say if [conditions] A, B, and C are met, then there is a clear path.

“There is still too much uncertainty at this point to say how precisely we move forward. The underlying principal remains the health and safety of NBA players and everyone involved, we begin with that as paramount and the decision tree moves forward from there”

Silver said the league would be monitoring the rate of infections, the availability of wide-scale testing, the progress of potential vaccines and the potential anti-viral medications as part of any return-to-play decision, however distant.

“There is a lot of data,” he said.

Richard Deitsch and Donnovan Bennett host a podcast about how COVID-19 is impacting sports around the world. They talk to experts, athletes and personalities, offering a window into the lives of people we normally root for in entirely different ways.

According to previous reports, the expectation is that teams and players would need about 25 days to get ready for any return and the league has been considering scenarios where the 2019-20 season is extended into July and August.

But Silver said any talk that the NBA could return to play without fans in a single, quarantined location such as at Las Vegas casino — the so-called “bubble-concept” — is premature.

“Many [ideas] have been proposed and we’ve only listened,” said Silver, who stressed that any return to play would have to preceded by assurances that front-line healthcare workers were properly cared for in terms of testing and PPE. “We’re not seriously engaged yet in that type of environment, because I can’t answer what precisely we would need to see to feel that environment provided the health and safety we would need to see for our players and everyone involved.

“As I sit here today there is too much unknown to set a timeline, there is too much unknown to say ‘these are the precise variables’ … we’re not in a position to know more at this point.”

Silver said that the NBA and their owners are eager to return to play this season but with significant caveats.

“My sense of NBA team owners is that, if they can be part of the movement to restart our economy, that includes the NBA. They almost see that as a civic obligation,” he said. “… But when dealing with human life, that trumps anything else we can possibly talk about. That’s sort of where the conversations began and ended today.”

Silver also confirmed an early report by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that the league and NBA Players Association have agreed on a mechanism to withhold money from the players should games end up being cancelled due to COVID-19.

Players will be paid in full on May 1 but will have their cheques trimmed by 25 per cent — according to a formula within the CBA — beginning on May 15th with salary reductions extending into the first two months of the 2020-21 season.

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The NBA and the players share basketball-related income on a roughly 51-49 split in favour of the players. To allow room for any adjustments, players already have 10 per cent of their salary — about $380 million total — held in escrow in case revenues fall short of projections. As long as revenues meet expectations, the players receive the money held in escrow at the end of the fiscal year.

But with the league having halted operations, it is anticipated that revenues will fall short of even the 10 per cent held in escrow. By reducing salaries now the league won’t have to chase players for money after the fact and any potential loss of income for the players will be introduced on a gradual basis.

The CBA has a never-before-used “force majeure” provision that allows owners to claw back salaries due to revenue losses stemming from “unforeseeable circumstances.” It is automatically triggered once games are officially cancelled due to things like epidemics, pandemics or government order.

According to the Associated Press, the CBA stipulates that players lose approximately 1.09 per cent of salary per canceled game, based on the force majeure provision. Given that there are 259 regular-season games left to be played, if they are cancelled players would stand to lose about $800-million in gross salary.

Once there is a cancellation of games, the force majeure is automatically triggered under the language of the CBA.

The NBA was the first of the major professional sports league to shut down a decision that came in the wake of a positive test for Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert on March 11.

In earlier statements, Silver has said that he wouldn’t provide any guidance on next steps for the league until May 1 given the uncertainty of the landscape.

He said Friday that his outlook hasn’t changed and that there was no guarantee that there would be any clear guidelines to offer at that point either.

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New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job



The New York Rangers plan to interview Gerard Gallant for their head coaching job, TSN reported.

The Vegas Golden Knights, who fired Gallant during the 2019-20 season, reportedly have granted permission.

A first conversation between the Rangers and Gallant was expected to take place quickly, before Gallant heads to Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, which runs from May 21-June 6.

Gallant, 57, was the first coach of the expansion Golden Knights and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. The Washington Capitals won in five games.

He was fired 49 games into his third season when the team was 24-19-6, and he had an overall record of 118-75-20 with Vegas.

He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-07) and Florida Panthers (2014-17) and has a career record of 270-216-4-51 in 541 career games as a head coach.

The Rangers are in the midst of an overhaul. They fired head coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches on Wednesday, following the dismissal last week of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.

The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after posting a 27-23-6 record in 2020-21. They finished in fifth place in the East Division.

Quinn, 54, compiled a 96-87-25 record during his three seasons as coach of the Rangers after taking over for Alain Vigneault on May 23, 2018.

–Field Level Media

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NHL wants answer on Canada border crossing soon



The NHL has asked the Canadian government for a decision by June 1 about U.S. teams crossing the border during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, ESPN reported Friday.


The Canadian teams played only each other during the 2020-21 season in a revamped North Division because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that will continue during the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s what happens after that — in the semifinals and finals — that is up in the air.


“The conversations are ongoing. We’ve told them we really do need to know by the end of the first round, and that’s around June 1,” Steve Mayer, the league’s chief content officer, told ESPN. “That’s pretty much the date that we’ve talked to them about, saying we have to know one way or another.”


Last season, the playoffs were held in bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto.


Under current rules, American-based teams couldn’t play in Canada without mandatory quarantines, which would make travel for home-and-away games impossible under the playoff calendar.


The NHL and government representatives last talked a week ago, and the Canadian officials submitted a variety of questions for the league’s response.


In the interim, Mayer said, the league has discussed the possibility of the Canadian team that advances from the North Division being based in the U.S. for the duration of the postseason. Talks have occurred with officials at NHL arenas where teams didn’t qualify for the playoffs.


An NHL source told ESPN this week that the league expects “a positive resolution” to the issue, however.


–Field Level Media

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Canada to play 2 more home World Cup qualifiers in U.S.



As Canada continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s national soccer team will play two more of its home World Cup qualifying matches south of the border in June.

Canada will face Aruba in Bradenton, Fla., on June 5, and will take on Suriname in suburban Chicago on June 8, Canada Soccer confirmed Monday.

The games are Canada‘s last two of four matches in CONCACAF Group B. A March 26 Canadian home match against Bermuda was held in Orlando, Fla., which Canada won 5-1. Also, the Caymen Islands were the host team on March 29, when Canada rolled, 11-0.

Only one national team advances to the next round, and Canada and Suriname top the group and the game against Suriname in Bridgeview, Ill., figures to be the deciding match in both teams’ efforts to advance.

Thirty nations from Central and North America are competing in this first round with six group winners advancing to a second round of head-to-head knockout matches for the right to compete in the CONCACAF final round of eight teams competing for four places in the 2022 World Cup. A fifth team from CONCACAF advances to an intercontinental play-in round.

As was executed in Orlando, the match in Chicago will be staged in accordance with the FIFA International Match Protocols supported by the relevant public health requirements.

“We had hoped to play these matches at home with Canadian fans providing the support and momentum to play a tough nation like Suriname in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” said John Herdman, coach of the Canadian men’s national team. “The reality of the global pandemic and the priority to keep our communities in Canada safe means the match will be played at a neutral site in Chicago with no home advantage, but we will embrace that challenge.

“Whatever comes at us, we will take it on and do whatever we need to do to advance to the next round.”

-Field Level Media

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