There’s concern among some NBA owners about the fact that a 22-team return-to-play format would result in a number of small-market teams not playing any games for nine months or more, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe.
The ESPN duo reports that Thunder owner Clay Bennett expressed those concerns on last Friday’s Board of Governors call, openly wondering if the NBA could bring back all 30 clubs when it resumes play. Other team owners, including Josh Harris (Sixers) and Robert Sarver (Suns) “enthusiastically” backed the idea of having as many teams as possible in the bubble environment, per Woj and Lowe, who add that Hawks owner Tony Ressler wants his team to be able to play in Orlando even without a path to the postseason.
While some team owners are in favor of having all 30 teams resume play, commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA don’t appear as bullish on that idea, given the health and safety concerns tied to bringing so many people to Orlando. Additionally, as ESPN’s report notes, Silver reminded those on Friday’s call that many players – and some teams – are “far less invested” in the idea of conducting several weeks of camps and enduring a quarantine period in order to play a handful of regular season games.
Wojnarowski and Lowe provided several more details on Friday’s conference call. We’ll round up the highlights right here:
- One Eastern Conference official on Friday’s call described the push to include as many teams as possible as follows, according to ESPN: “The message was something bigger, reminding people that some teams can’t just reopen the doors in nine of 10 months and so easily sell tickets or a sponsorship without having played basketball for that long.”
- With the NBA focusing on a 22-team return to play, there have been conversations about the teams left out of this season’s resumption holding mandatory summer training camps or even participating in regional fall leagues to help bridge the gap between seasons, per ESPN. Such a concept would need to be collectively bargained with players, and Woj and Lowe say there’s an expectation that the league will reach out to the NBPA to discuss the issue.
- The NBA is still determining how a potential play-in tournament would work in the 22-team format, Woj and Lowe say. It remains unclear how much of an advantage the current No. 8 seeds would receive in such a tournament, especially if they widen their leads on non-playoff teams when the season resumes. The unbalanced nature of bringing back 13 Western teams and just nine Eastern squads also complicates the play-in issue.
- According to ESPN’s report, the NBA estimates that a 22-team format with some regular season games and a play-in tournament will be worth “several hundred million dollars more in revenue” than a 16-team format that advances straight to the postseason.