The biggest question facing the NBA right now is when next season will start. While the league, and their TV partners, would prefer a pre-Christmas opening night, the players are pushing back on that idea in favor of beginning on Jan. 18 -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Those talks are still ongoing, and the two sides recently agreed to postpone the deadline for CBA negotiations until Nov. 6 to give themselves more time to figure everything out. In addition to the actual start date, there are a number of other issues facing the league, including whether or not they'll be able to have fans in the arenas at any point next season.
Based on the current status of the coronavirus pandemic, it seems that would be unlikely, but the league and the owners aren't ruling it out. In fact, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday, commissioner Adam Silver discussed the possibility of rapid COVID-19 tests allowing fans to attend games. He said it's a "realistic" goal.
San Francisco Chronicle: I know there's been talk out here in San Francisco that, to get fans in the arena, you might need to give each paying customer a rapid COVID-19 test. Based off what you know about the policies out here and what the league is potentially capable of, do you think that's something that could be realistic — maybe not at the start of next season, but at some point next season?
Silver: "I do think it's realistic. This is an area that Joe in particular has been involved in, in terms of the rapid-testing market. As a league, even since mid-March when we shut down, we have been intensively researching and testing all sorts of testing in the public sector and private sector. There have been significant advancements in rapid testing since the onset of COVID-19. We're fairly optimistic that the market will generate more and better forms of faster testing.
"There may be opportunities in the context of an arena, particularly in the lower bowl, where there is an economic model that allows for it. Of course, that's part of the equation: Ultimately, is it affordable in the context that you want to use it? I think we also see potentially a broader role that these teams can play in their community, which is that of testing.
"For example, if a person attending a Warriors game gets tested, there's also a benefit to the larger community and potentially that person's employer, both to keep them healthy and because they may be going to a workplace. It's not necessarily a one-purpose test."
The league has invested an immense amount of money and time into developing testing procedures, and rapid COVID-19 tests do exist. By next spring you would assume those capabilities would be even better, so from a technical standpoint, it could be possible to rapidly test fans before games.
That's only step one, however, and there would still be all sorts of other problems to solve. How much would something like this cost? Who would be paying for it? How reliable would these tests be? What about the possibility of false negatives and/or positives Who would be in charge of administering the tests? Would all teams be allowed to move forward with this process? If not, what are the guidelines and standards that would determine eligibility? Who would be in charge of setting said guidelines? Would players have to sign off on allowing fans in the building?
On and on it goes. Obviously, everyone would love to have fans back in the arenas again, but figuring out how to do it safely in indoor arenas is a massive undertaking that goes well beyond simply creating rapid tests. Admittedly, things can change quite quickly these days, and we know NBA owners are desperate to sell tickets again, but for now, it seems like all games will be behind closed doors.