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Rockets’ owner Tilman Fertitta discusses possible NBA return with President Trump

President Trump Holds Roundtable Discussion With Restaurant Executives

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 18: Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Houston Rockets, makes remarks towards President Donald Trump during a roundtable in the State Dining Room of the White House May 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump held a roundtable meeting with Restaurant Executives and Industry Leaders at the White House today. (Photo by Doug Mills - Pool/Getty Images)

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Houston Rockets’ owner Tilman Fertitta was at the White House Monday, part of a roundtable discussion with restaurant owners about getting a hard-hit industry through tough times and back on its feet. Fertitta, CEO of Landry’s Inc., said he had to lay off 40,000 employees from his chain of restaurants and still had to borrow "$300 million at 12%" interest to keep his company afloat. Fertitta remains a billionaire, for the record.

President Donald Trump got around to asking Fertitta about a return of the NBA. The Rockets’ owner laid out what is the prevailing sentiment around the league right now (hat tip Ben Golliver at the Washington Post).

“I think what they’re doing is waiting to see what happens in certain states and if we’re going to be able to play. Making sure the virus continues to go in the right direction in the next few weeks. If things keep going the way that it’s going, I think the NBA, the commissioner, Adam Silver, who has done an unbelievable job through this, and the 30 owners will make the decision to try to start the season up again...

“I think we would play some [regular season] games to get it going again and create the interest, then go right into the playoffs. I think it would be great for America. We’re all missing sports. Everyone wants to see these great NBA teams.”

Adam Silver and his deputies at NBA headquarters have a decision tree, one that accounts for where the virus is in states the league is considering for a return to play, and much more. The range of options runs from canceling the season and playoffs completely to getting in most or all of the remaining regular season and playoffs.

What Fertitta laid out is the most likely option, a handful of regular season games (getting teams past 70 games total, to help with regional sports network television deals), followed by a full playoffs. The games will be in a “bubble” or “bubbles” where the players and team staffs will live, eat, and play, places with extensive testing.

A lot has to come together still for that to work, but there is optimism around the league. Everyone — including President Trump, who said as much — wants to see the NBA back.