Commissioner Adam Silver said it remains impossible for the NBA to make any decisions about whether to resume this season and that it is unclear when that will change.
But in a clear sign that at least some of the 259 remaining regular-season games that were not played because of the coronavirus pandemic will not be rescheduled, the league announced Friday it will withhold 25% of player pay starting with their May 15 checks.
Silver, speaking after the league’s regularly scheduled April board of governors meeting – one that took place through video conferencing and not the usual in-person setting in New York – said all options remain on the table for trying to resume play and eventually crowning a champion.
“I think there is a sense that we can continue to take the leading role as we learn more in coming up with an appropriate regimen and protocol for returning to business,” Silver said. “There’s a recognition from (owners) that this is bigger than our business; certainly, bigger than sports.”
The salary decision was made in concert with the National Basketball Players Association, the league saying it would “provide players with a more gradual salary reduction schedule” if games are officially cancelled or the rest of the season is totally lost.
Players will be paid in full on May 1. The cutback in salary has been expected for some time in response to the NBA’s shutdown that started March 11, and has no end in sight.
Silver said the league will weigh several factors as it continues to try to save the season, among them whether the infection rate of COVID-19 comes down nationally, the availability of large-scale testing and progress on the path toward a vaccine.
“All these team owners are in this business because they love the game,” Silver said. “They love the competition, and I know from my conversations with players they feel the same way. But when you’re dealing with human life, that trumps anything else we could possibly talk about. That’s really where the conversation began and ended today.”
Team owners and NBA officials heard from Disney chairman Bob Iger during the call to discuss his company’s response to the pandemic, as well as from Dr. David Ho of Columbia University. Ho is an expert on viral epidemics and worked with the NBA when Magic Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in 1991.
Silver said Iger shared that he’s been often asked about a return to normalcy.
“To steal a line from Bob, when he was asked by several people about particular timelines, he said from his standpoint `it’s about the data, and not the date,”’ Silver said.
The NBA playoffs would have started Saturday. If none of the 259 outstanding regular season games are played, the league’s players would lose about $800 million in gross salary.
Taking 25% out of checks on May 15 – and, presumably, checks on June 1 and June 15 should play not resume by then – would amount to players across the league missing $40 million in each pay period.
The reduction in pay is in anticipation of what the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players describes as a “Force Majeure Event” – the legal term for unforeseeable circumstances, such as an epidemic or pandemic. Per the CBA, players could lose 1.08% of their annual salary for each game that is cancelled.
Silver said the shutdown means “revenues, in essence, have dropped to zero. That’s having a huge financial impact on team business and arena business.”
In other matters Silver discussed Friday:
MORE PLAYER POSITIVES
There were 10 players known to have tested positive for coronavirus as of late March: four from the Brooklyn Nets including Kevin Durant, two from the Los Angeles Lakers, Christian Wood of the Detroit Pistons, Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics, and Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz.
More players have tested positive since, Silver said.
“For privacy reasons, we’re not reporting” any other positive tests, Silver said.
Silver said there is no cutoff date in mind for a decision to be made about playing some games or calling everything off.
“All rules are off at this point during the situation we find ourselves in and the country is in,” Silver said. “If there is an opportunity to resume play, even if it looks different than what we’ve done historically, we should be modeling it. … We don’t have a good understanding of exactly sort of what those standards are that we need to meet in order to move forward … because the experts don’t necessarily, either.”
The NBA is still listening to ideas from those pitching so-called “bubble” scenarios as a way to resume play. Teams would be brought to a site or sites to finish a season in a way that theoretically could minimize exposure risks.
Sites such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles and the Disney complex near Orlando have been mentioned as possibilities. But Silver said the league isn’t actively pursuing any such “bubble” plan yet, again citing so much uncertainty in so many areas.
NHL teams eliminated from 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs free to make trades – Fear the Fin
There’s still some doubt that the NHL’s 24-team playoff format will have enough time to play out, especially with the news today that training camps — Phase 3 of the league’s Return to Play Plan — would not begin before July 10, more than six weeks from now. But for seven teams (the Sharks included), there’s nothing left of the season whether the league returns to complete playoffs or not.
Detroit, Ottawa, New Jersey, Buffalo, Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose are now free to make trades with each other, a league source confirmed to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic.
Though it may have been a larger and more diverse pool of teams eliminated, this is hardly different than the usual practice of allowing teams who do not qualify for playoffs to begin trading with each other once the regular season ends in April — though it’s not super common and generally the trades involve depth players. Mostly, the eliminated teams get a two-month head-start on setting price in the market before the draft.
But with the nebulous future of the season — despite being largely unaffected by the decision-making until it concerns the 2020-21 season — teams will probably be reluctant to pull the trigger. Salary cap uncertainty plays a roll, as well. With the cap unlikely to budge, it doesn’t seem advantageous to makes moves too quickly.
The other consideration is that the three California teams make up half of the available market and are unlikely to trade with each other. Notably, Doug Wilson went through the Boston Bruins to acquire Martin Jones from the Los Angeles Kings, a trade we all liked at the time and a reminder that no take can escape the bitter coldness of having aged.
Another player is the Ottawa Senators, and it might break Pierre Dorion’s brain if Doug Wilson swindles him a third time, so the market is pretty bare. If anything, the Buffalo Sabres organization appears to be having a difficult time right now and we’re living through a global pandemic, so anything is possible.
Ultimately, these seven teams didn’t make playoffs because they have incredible rosters, which is why this time typically only sees depth trades. If anything does pick up, I can’t imagine it would be before the play-in round for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs happens, which might still be a matter of months.
Right now will likely involve a lot of talks that go nowhere and collegiate/European free agent signings. The most important head-start will be the extra resources and time available to focus on scouting and strategy for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
That said, Doug Wilson has also been known to scoop a good depth player, so if he wants to start working the phones, I’m good with that, too. I bet he could pay off the Red Wings to liberate one of the good prospects from the Kings. Just something to consider if you’re reading this, Doug.
Sabres' Krueger on Eichel: 'I like the anger' – TSN
Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger said Friday he has no problem with captain Jack Eichel voicing his frustrations, but he hopes to use it in a constructive way.
“I like the anger,” Krueger said of Eichel’s comments. “I have no problem with people outing frustration on the past. But then let’s move that conversation forward, real quick, and let’s figure out what we’re going to do about it.”
Eichel said on Thursday that he was “fed up” with losing, two days it was announced the Sabres would be one of the seven teams not to qualify under the NHL’s Return to Play 24-team playoff format.
“Listen, I’m fed up with the losing and I’m fed up and I’m frustrated,” Eichel said during a conference call with media. “You know, it’s definitely not an easy pill to swallow right now. It’s been a tough couple of months. It’s been a tough five years with where things have [gone]. I’m a competitor. I want to win every time I’m on the ice. I want to win a Stanley Cup every time I start a season.”
The Sabres have missed out on the postseason in all five years of Eichel’s career and nine straight in total. The 23-year-old finished with a career-high 36 goals and 42 assists in 68 games this season, Krueger’s first with the team.
On Thursday, Eichel credited his continued development to Krueger, the third coach he has had in his short career.
“I’d be lying if I said that I’m not getting frustrated with where things are going and I think we took a step this year, but I will say it’s been a pleasure working with Ralph,” Eichel said. “He does so much for our group every day. There are tough times and he does an amazing job of…narrowing our focus and getting us back to where we need to be mentally. And just the few times that I’ve spoken with him, you know, throughout this quarantine, whatever you want to call it, it’s been good.”
Defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen also credited Krueger for helping him improve this season on Thursday, but noted that he could be traded if the team elects to make changes this off-season. Krueger, however, said Friday does not want to see the 25-year-old moved.
“I want to coach Risto next season,” Krueger said. “I would enjoy coaching Risto next season. … Risto was all-in.”
How NHL could transition from paused to handing out Stanley Cup – Sportsnet.ca
“There’s no magic to starting in October,” Gary Bettman said this week, but there may be some found in finishing then.
For it looks increasingly like that’s when the commissioner will be handing over the Stanley Cup if health conditions allow the NHL to go ahead with a 24-team tournament to crown a champion at the end of its coronavirus-interrupted season.
Bettman was reluctant to attach specific dates to his league’s return-to-play plan after Tuesday’s unveiling and said anybody who did would be “guessing.”
So let’s stick with the known facts, as best we can, in sketching out how the NHL might transition from paused to completing the playoffs.
The earliest players will be required to report to their teams for training camp is July 10. That was communicated to them in a Thursday afternoon memo. While there’s no certainty the league will be ready to transition to Phase 3 at that point — camps could conceivably open later in the month instead — let’s use the best-case scenario as a baseline.
Senior Writer Ryan Dixon and NHL Editor Rory Boylen always give it 110%, but never rely on clichés when it comes to podcasting. Instead, they use a mix of facts, fun and a varied group of hockey voices to cover Canada’s most beloved game.
Now the NHL is granting the players a fair bit of latitude in helping shape how the resumption unfolds, including final say on the length of training camps. The players on the “Return To Play Committee” have indicated a need for at least three weeks to get back in game shape, although there seems to be some flexibility on their part now that team facilities are expected to open late next week for small-group workouts.
Perhaps, with ice available to everyone for somewhere in the neighbourhood of five weeks before camps officially open, they won’t require as much time as initially thought.
“We really want it to be more on the cautious side than obviously kind of being aggressive,” said Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, one of five players serving on the ‘Return To Play Committee.’
“I really think we’re going to get a better sense … as we get into Phase 2: How guys are feeling, how long that phase is going to be, really what we’re going to need. It’s not an exact science.”
In sticking with an optimistic view, let’s say they end up needing two weeks on the ice together in their playing cities. That takes us to July 24. The next step will see teams travel to their hub cities to complete training camps and play two exhibition games apiece, which is expected to last another week.
Now we’re sitting at July 31.
How long the tournament itself takes to play is currently resting in the hands of the NHL Players’ Association as it decides on the remaining format issues. It could be completed in as few as 59 days if best-of-fives are used for Rounds 1 and 2 followed by best-of-sevens in the conference finals and Stanley Cup final.
An additional nine days are required to play four rounds of best-of-seven, like usual, following the best-of-five play-in series.
It’s not an easy choice given the concerns many players have about being separated from their families to complete the season. However, the signs seem to point to them electing to commit to the longer tournament to preserve the integrity of the Stanley Cup.
“I think anyone who gets their name on it wants to earn it like the players that did before them,” said Tavares. “I think the sense I got, and I think my own personal view, is it would be nice to play all four rounds of the playoffs as a best-of-7. As what we’re used to.”
Kris Letang, the NHLPA rep for the Pittsburgh Penguins, expressed a similar sentiment after discussing the matter with his teammates.
“One thing that comes up often is the fact that everybody is used to the best-of-7,” said Letang. “You know how it’s structured, you know how it feels if you lose the first two [games] or you win the first two. You kind of know all the scenarios that can go through a best-of-7.
“I don’t think there’s any players in this league right now that played back in the day in the best three-of-five. So I think it’s just an easier thing to just put a best-of-7 because everybody knows what to expect and you have no excuses of not being prepared for that.”
Should that end up being the case, a tournament starting Aug. 1 could see Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final played on Oct. 7.
And that’s assuming everything proceeds in a timely manner between then and now — far from a guarantee, despite the big strides already made by completing the playoff framework and getting a good handle on how the COVID-19 testing will be handled.
There’s still a lot of back and forthcoming on key issues that need to be negotiated between the league and players.
All of which points to one conclusion: If the NHL manages to complete this unusual 2019-20 season, it will have to do so more than a calendar year after it initially started.
NHL teams eliminated from 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs free to make trades – Fear the Fin
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