- The NBA season was suspended on March 11 after Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.
- Earlier today, CNBC reported that the NBA was feeling pressure from team executives and agents to cancel the rest of the regular season.
- Milwaukee Bucks’ co-owner Marc Lasry is a dissenting voice, saying that he thinks the season will ‘eventually’ resume.
After reports surfaced earlier today that the NBA was under increasing pressure from team execs and player agents to cancel to the rest of the regular season there’s at least one voice of dissent. CNBC interviewed Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry who said that he thinks the NBA season will ‘eventually’ restart but added that it won’t be anytime soon.
So what sort of timeframe is ‘not anytime soon’? In his comments on the CNBC mid trading day show Halftime Report Lasry suggested that it might be July or August before pro hoops resumes play. He did underscore a fairly obvious reality by saying:
“What’s clear is people want to see sports.”
I’d add the observation that they also want to *bet* on sports. Lasry made his money as co-founder of Avenue Capital and was a pioneer in investing in distressed debt. He didn’t specifically take a shot at the league office but sounded a bit tired of their reticent approach to getting things going again. In particular, he was asked about some teams returning to practice facilities earlier than others which he admitted that would give some teams “a little bit of an edge, but that’s life” before stressing that “you need to get started”. He went on to underscore the importance of the league making a firm decision of what they want to see happen:
“If the goal is you want to end up having a season, let’s get things open. Let’s get people getting back in shape and then we’ll figure it out come July or August, what we can do in finishing the season and finishing the season without fans.”
Lasry suggests that the pent up demand for sports is evident in the record ratings for the NFL draft–which also did record betting numbers. He concluded that the huge demand from fans for sports will eventually inform the NBA’s decision to finish the season:
“I think as you have that, people want to see sports, so I think we’ll end up finishing the season.”
Even if the NBA wants to wait until late Summer to return Lasry is right on the money with his observation that they need to make a decision and start the process now. With most other North American sports leagues in the process of formulating their own return strategy it’s clearly past the point where Adam Silver and the league can continue their strategy of twisting with the prevailing winds of public and media opinion.