As the rest of the NBA prepares to restart the 2019-20 season with training camps, regular-season games and playoffs beginning in July, teams left out of the 22-team format and facing a possible nine-month hiatus between games are seeking unprecedented offseason access to players, sources said.
Most of the eight teams whose seasons have ended -- including Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota and New York -- are pushing to engage in joint practices as ramp-ups for regional summer leagues in August, sources said. For example, the Pistons and Cavaliers have discussed the possibility of joint practices as a prelude to a mini-pod of games, sources said.
All of these teams have been dormant -- save for voluntary, socially distanced workouts in team facilities -- since the NBA's shutdown on March 11 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the front-office ideas presented to the NBA, sources said:
- A combination of voluntary and mandatory workouts for two weeks in July.
- Regional minicamps in August that include joint practices for a period of days and approximately three televised games.
- Organized team activities (OTAs) for mid-September.
- Teams want an opportunity for training camps to start seven to 10 days earlier for the 2020-21 season for those teams left out of Orlando.
The Orlando non-participants are pushing the NBA for televised coverage of the proposed mini-summer-league event. Without participation in the Orlando resumption, part of the hope for coverage includes some teams' belief that organizations are losing valuable opportunities in this trying time for team communities and the country, sources said.
Owners, front-office executives and coaches are expressing concern that many young, developing players will increasingly struggle with the extended separation from their franchises and the professional and personal structure offered there.
"Nine months is too long without organized basketball," Hawks owner Tony Ressler told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.
"We just can't risk that. I think the league has heard that loud and clear. We are pushing to remain competitive. That's what our players want. We were desperate to have something that helps us to stay competitive."
"Not playing for eight months puts us in a competitive disadvantage, but again, I think there are creative ways to do so," Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said Saturday. "Collectively, I think these eight teams we're getting now on calls and we have conversations of how we can develop our players and how we can have structure in place to get some practicing and possibly some scrimmaging in the offseason to catch up to the teams that are going to be playing."
The NBA would need to negotiate these activities and camps with the National Basketball Players Association, because they fall outside of the collective bargaining agreement. The NBA and NBPA have a significant negotiating process awaiting them on a number of financial and competitive issues in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown.
The league office has told these teams that they plan to make addressing the offseason needs of those teams a priority and plan to work with them on reaching solutions to their concerns, sources said.
The complications around offseason ideas for eliminated NBA teams
Brian Windhorst details the hurdles to the offseason ideas proposed by the eight teams that didn't make the NBA's restart plan.