The NBA officially has a plan to restart the 2019-20 regular season.
After numerous reports came out over the last week detailing proposals about when and where the NBA might resume, the league announced Saturday morning that they are in talks with the Walt Disney Company about restarting the season at their expansive property outside of Orlando.
“The NBA, in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association, is engaged in exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about restarting the 2019-20 NBA season in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as a single site for an NBA campus for games, practices and housing,” said NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass via release. “Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medial protocols and protections are in place.”
The NBA’s announcement today tracks with what has been reported over the last few weeks, though this makes it clear that the league is focusing on using one site rather than multiple sites, which was reportedly on the table (and might be why the league decided to clarify today). The NBA has a close relationship with The Walt Disney Company — they’re the parent company of ABC/ESPN, the league’s most important media partner, and their Executive Chairman, Bob Iger, has worked closely with commissioner Adam Silver during the COVID-19 pandemic — and the size and infrastructure of Disney World Orlando, home of the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, makes it an ideal site to house all 30 teams in a somewhat controllable environment.
While the NBA seems to be solidifying when and where issues regarding restarting the season, which has been postponed since March 11 due to the COVID-10 pandemic, how the league will resume still seems to be very much up for debate. According to Shams Charania at The Athletic, the league sent out a survey to general managers detailing a number of options regarding resumption of play, from all 30 teams playing a certain number of games before playoffs to jumping straight into a tournament format that would not include teams at the bottom of their respective conferences (the idea being that going through a month of training camp only to play a very limited number of games might not make sense for teams that had already started to look to next season).
But while front offices will likely lobby for the proposals that make the most sense for their respective teams, the ultimate decision on what is best for the league as a whole falls to commissioner Silver, though that is also dictated by advice from public health professionals.
Granted, there are still many details to iron out — issues such as availability of tests for COVID-19, how hermetic a “bubble” would have to be to reduce the likelihood of new infections and how many players/coaches/staff from each team would be allowed to attend are still to be determined — and a spike in cases as states start to loosen stay-at-home restrictions, or any significant change in how the COVID-19 pandemic is playing out in the United States, could derail even the best laid plans. But after over two months of uncertainty regarding the resumption of the NBA season, we’re finally starting to get some answers.