Pelicans vice president David Griffin said Saturday that the NBA is intent on resuming its 2019-20 season, which was suspended this month because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Griffin told Pelicans reporter Jen Hale that there’s no way of knowing when or how a resumption might happen, but he sounded convinced that the league wants to get back to playing.
“Everything is in such a state of flux that I think it would be premature for the NBA to say that they have any idea what it ultimately looks like,” Griffin said in a video interview on the team’s website.
“I do know unequivocally from all of the different conference calls that the league is holding, the league is very mindful of the idea of getting back to play,” he added. “The idea of canceling a season is not at all on their mind, and I think we’re modeling every possible thing we can for how we can deliver a product to the fans that, quite frankly I think, we’re all going to need a diversion at some point in the future.
“Until we get to a point where we can continue to think we’ve got containment on this, I think we’re going to stay locked down and hopefully we’ll get to a point where we can come back sooner rather than later.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver suspended play for at least 30 days on March 11 after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). Nine other players, including Nets forward Kevin Durant, have tested positive since then. Two unidentified Lakers players and Celtics guard Marcus Smart were the most recent positive tests.
Griffin may be saying that the league doesn’t want to cancel, and Silver may be voicing optimism about a return, but the NBA is still preparing for a possible cancellation.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday that the league shared a memo with teams that says players will be paid their full salaries through April 1 but that the league may try to recoup salary on April 15 for games canceled up to that point, through the “force majeure event” clause in the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
The league can take back the money if the event prevents the NBA from performing its obligations under the CBA. “Epidemic” is one of the conditions explicitly listed in clause; the World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
Players would lose 1.08 percent of their salary for every game canceled, according to reports by Wojnarowski and Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher. Players could get the money back if those games are made up, Wojnarowski noted. The NBA has already completed 79 percent of its regular-season schedule.
The National Basketball Players Association made players aware of this “doomsday provision” last week.