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Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James shot down a report Thursday that NBA executives were pressing the league office to cancel the rest of the 2019-20 season due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Saw some reports about execs and agents wanting to cancel season??? That’s absolutely not true,” James wrote on Twitter. “Nobody I know saying anything like that. As soon as it’s safe we would like to finish our season. I’m ready and our team is ready. Nobody should be canceling anything.”
James’ remarks came hours after a report noted that several NBA executives and player agents were conflicted about efforts to resume the season, which went on hiatus on March 13 after Utah Jazz center Ruby Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The executives, who spoke under condition of anonymity, reportedly raised concerns about potential liability issues for teams if play were to resume before the pandemic had sufficiently waned.
The NBA will begin withholding 25 percent of player pay starting on May 15 as a check against the financial challenges teams are facing due to the shutdown. With games on hold and no clear restart date in sight, team owners have lost out on tens of millions of dollars from ticket sales and other sources of revenue.
To date, the NBA has not given any indication that it plans to cancel the remainder of its 2019-20 season. Commissioner Adam Silver and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban have each expressed optimism that play could resume in the coming weeks.
“It is the responsibility of the league office to explore all options for a return to play this season. We owe that to our fans, teams, players, partners and all who love the game,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement. “While our top priority remains everyone’s health and well-being, we continue to evaluate all options to finish this season. At the same time, we are intensely focused on addressing the potential impact of Covid-19 on the 2020-21 season.”
The NBA informed teams earlier this week that they could soon reopen their facilities in states that have relaxed shelter-in-place orders. The league identified May 8 as a target date, though the reopening could be delayed further depending on the public health situation.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious disease and a key adviser to President Trump, has said that U.S. sports leagues could eventually resume this year without fans in attendance.