Rockets' Tilman Fertitta Says 'America Wants to See the NBA Play' amid Pandemic

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2020

FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2017, file photo, new Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta reacts before an NBA preseason basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in Houston. Fertitta is interested in bringing an NHL hockey team to Houston, a possibility that did not exist under the NBA team’s previous regime. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke, File)
Michael Wyke/Associated Press

Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta believes the players and fans across the country want the NBA to return amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle shared Fertitta's comments from his CNBC appearance on Tuesday:

"We're very comfortable as long as the experts continue to say things are getting better in America, the players want to play. As long as this doesn't continue to grow and continues to go the other way ... I see the NBA playing. Everybody wants to play. 

"America wants to see the NBA play, and I look forward to us playing games later this summer, playing some regular-season games and of course having an NBA champion like the Houston Rockets."

Tim MacMahon of ESPN noted Fertitta was part of a roundtable discussion with Donald Trump on Monday and was pressed by the president about whether or not the season will return and in what format.

The 62-year-old, who bought the Rockets in 2017, echoed much of what he said on CNBC, although he also pointed out the goal is to play some regular-season games before jumping into the playoffs.

"I think that we would play some games just to get it going again and create interest and then go right into the playoffs," Fertitta said. "But I think it'll be great for America. We're all missing sports, and everybody wants to see these great NBA teams."

The league has been suspended since March 11 and hasn't yet announced an official plan for coming back, but ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported Tuesday on Get Up that the goal is to have decisions in place by mid-June if the league receives clearance from "health officials and the government" (discussion begins around 55-second mark):

Last Tuesday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported those who attended a Board of Governors call with commissioner Adam Silver left "feeling positive about momentum toward an NBA return to play this season."

However, those on the call also realized there has to be a level of comfort understanding that a positive COVID-19 test for a player or multiple players would not shut down the comeback efforts.

For now, the league is watching how the situation unfolds from a public-health perspective with more states gradually lifting restrictions in the coming weeks. It will also have to work out a compensation deal with the players before returning, especially since it remains highly unlikely fans will be present for any games this season.