NBA teams will lose money during the 2020-21 season that starts Tuesday night, one league owner said.
Milwaukee Bucks co-owner/hedge fund manager Marc Lasry told Axios Re:Cap on Monday that the absence of fans attending games will cause teams to be in the red financially.
Some teams will allow some fans at games, others no fans, when the season begins. Lasry said he expects crowds to grow gradually as the coronavarius threat lessens and people feel comfortable attending live events again.
"I think the question is, 'How much do you lose?'" Lasry said. "Fans are 30 or 40% of your revenue – you can't make that up. There's no way to make that up.
"I think the best-case scenario is that you lose 10-20%. Your worst-case scenario is you lose more than that, where there's no fans the whole season."
The NBA will become the first major U.S. sports league to conduct a second season during the pandemic. The plans include a regular season of 72 games, 10 fewer than normal, and games at teams' home arenas. Also, the second half of the schedule has not been released as the league waits to see the pandemic impact.
Last year's playoffs were held in a "bubble" in Orlando, Florida, where players, coaches, and staff were confined while playing games.
LeBron James led the Los Angeles to the NBA title in October.
"What you learned is, if you do create a bubble, you can control things," Lasry said. "So that's the good news. The bad news is, you've got to create a bubble.
"Ultimately, I think what people found, was, yes, they were happy to do it for that moment in time, but I don't think going forward people want to create and just play in a bubble. I think they want to be with their families."
Despite the COVID-19 impact on the league, the Bucks recently signed two-time league Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo to a "supermax" five-year contract extension worth a reported $228.2 million. Officially known as the "Designated Veteran Player Extension," the supermax allows teams to re-sign qualified players to maximum five-year contracts worth up to 35% of the salary cap with 8% escalation in each subsequent year.
"The purpose of the super max [contract] ends up being to be able to pay someone a lot more money than anyone else does," Lasry said. "So for us, it was like an extra $60 million-plus that we could pay. And that has an impact."
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