The NBA is still hoping to finish the 2019-2020 season, although no one really knows exactly what that could look like.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojanarowski reported this morning that Adam Silver, the NBAPA, and league owners and team executives are all working with a resumption in mind, though clearly that would require a lot of things to be different from pre-pandemic NBA basketball. Foremost among those changes will have to be the number of people actually on-site in the gym or arena the league eventually chooses. According to Woj, the league is hoping to limit that to around 30. Considering player rosters and officials, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for other people, and one of the cuts could be camera operators.
Woj notes that the league is considering alternatives for that, too:
Amid the pandemic, sources say, fan-less games could rely on robotic cameras with closer, innovative angles of the action. Television play-by-play and game analysts could call the games from remote locations. Discussions have included teams keeping essential personnel in the range of 30 to 35 — including players — on site.
It’s hard to know exactly what that means; would there perhaps still be one operator providing the traditional angle, along with a group of remotely operated cameras offering different looks? The NBA has already done some experimenting with “floating” camera angles, with mixed results, but obviously this would be more out of necessity than anything else. Viewers are generally reticent to changes, but considering the alternative and the overall situation, if the NBA can come back safely and responsibly in part by changing how a broadcast looks, most NBA watchers would probably take that bargain.
Woj also notes that the league is still anticipating receiving television revenue payments, though they might come with a catch:
Of course, money will matter, too. The NBA will cobble the financial wherewithal to get through a truncated resumption of a season — or a full cancellation. The return of players’ salaries for any canceled games under the force majeure clause in the CBA will soften financial losses for owners. The revenue of national broadcasting contracts will still find ways to teams — with the future caveats of make-goods for networks to recoup the lost inventory of games and sponsorships.
The NBA expanded its credit facility an additional $650 million up to $1.2 billion to protect cash flow, and it could do so again, sources said.
That would essentially turn those deals into advances, but considering the financial volatility the league is facing, it’s probably the preferable outcome. Smoothing things out going forward is a lot easier to swallow than returning a huge portion of this year’s revenue, even if the total gross ends up the same. Honestly, it’s still hard to imagine what an NBA return looks like, especially without widely available testing in the United States.
But if we’re going to get a completed season, it’s going to look very different, right down to the camera angles.