NBA coronavirus hiatus: What we know and don't know about a potential resumption of 2019-20 season
At this point there are more questions than answers, but progress is slowly being made toward a possible return
The NBA is slowly building momentum toward a resumption of the 2019-20 season, which came to a halt on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, but there are still many hurdles to overcome before professional basketball in the U.S. becomes a reality.
Things are changing rapidly with new information and restrictions being loosened around the country, so you might have questions about the current state of the NBA, and what this means for the future of the league. We've tried our best to answer them for you using both reporting and the words of NBA commissioner Adam Silver. We will keep this up-to-date as new information becomes available.
Can NBA teams practice right now?
Most NBA team facilities are now open for individual workouts, which follow strict safety protocols and a one-player-to-one-coach system. The league is expected to issue guidelines for an expansion of individual workouts around June 1, ESPN reports. Players are also able to work out in home gyms, and teams like the Lakers and Clippers have reportedly with a few players during the hiatus.
When will the NBA start playing games again?
There is no firm return date for the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season, butin a statement Saturday that the league is targeting late July as a potential restart date, and that the league and Walt Disney World are in "exploratory conversations" about resuming play at the Orlando complex. If this is the case, teams would begin training camp in mid-June.
"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," Bass said. "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 medical protocols and protections are in place."
Where will games take place?
For now it seems like teams will not play in their home arenas to finish this season, and the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida has emerged as the front-runner to host all of the league's games during the remainder of the 2019-20 season, according to the league's statement. Cities like Las Vegas and Houston were also reportedly on the table, but Orlando is the leader given its advantages of being a private property with the necessary facilities, hotels and amenities to continue the season.
What is a bubble site?
The term "bubble site" was given to the concept of finishing the season in a single city. The idea is that players and other personnel would be quarantined in their hotels and only travel to the facilities to play games and practice, limiting exposure to the coronavirus. This concept has been loosened a bit recently, with Lakers forward Jared Dudley saying that players to remain in their rooms at all times during off hours, but instead they would take a common-sense approach. Silver prefers the term "campus" to "bubble."
Will fans be allowed to attend NBA games?
There is no indication that fans will be allowed in a single-site format for the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season. There is also uncertainty as to whether fans will be in seats for the 2020-21 season, which is part of the reason why the idea of pushing back the start of next season until December is reportedly gaining momentum. Silver said the league is exploring the possibility of bringing back fans in a 15-20 percent capacity during the 2020-21 season.
"Assuming a vaccine isn't coming any time soon, are there things we can do in our arenas where maybe we can't have 19,000 people, but maybe we can have 5,000 people? Silver told players on a conference call, via ESPN. "Maybe we can have 8,000 people? Maybe there are protocols allowing for it?"
Will the NBA finish the regular season or go straight to the playoffs?
There is no answer on this topic as of yet, but Silver asked owners of non-playoff teams to keep an open mind and think of the league as a whole rather than their individual situations. This came after Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, "it feels like the season is done for us." Though it adds a health risk with more players and staff heading to whichever site, or sites, are eventually chosen, there is a financial incentive for the league to finish the regular season. The league could lose revenue from regional sports networks if teams are unable to complete 70 games -- at this point, teams have played between 63 and 67 games.
If the league chooses to go straight to the playoffs, there have been numerous suggestions about how to establish the field, ranging from a play-in tournament to simply taking the 16 current playoff teams.
Will the playoffs be shortened?
As of now,that there will be full seven-game series in each round of the playoffs. The lack of travel in a single-site format would allow for series to be completed faster, Silver added.
How much money will the NBA lose if the season is canceled?
There is no firm number, but Sam Amick of The Athletic reports that "the lost national television revenue from these playoffs alone would be approximately $900 million." That's not including potential lost revenue from the remaining regular-season games or the money lost from not having fans in attendance, so the number could potentially end up in the billions. The economic impact of the hiatus could mean alterations to the salary cap beginning as soon as next season, but no determinations have been made at this point.
How will the NBA test for COVID-19?
While the NBA faced criticism in March for testing NBA players while patients and healthcare workers around the country were struggling to acquire them, Silver seems confident that testing will be available and plentiful when NBA play resumes. Via ESPN:
Silver expressed confidence there would be enough mass testing available in the United States for the league to feel confident about using such a large number of tests. Once the NBA is ready to play in the next couple of months, Silver said, "We won't be taking tests from needy people."
Ideally, players and NBA personnel on-site would be tested frequently, if not daily, to quickly and accurately identify carriers of the coronavirus. The NBA is in discussions with national coronavirus testing providers such as BioReference Laboratories, LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics and Vault Health/RUCDR Infinite Biologics at Rutgers to shore up its testing program, The Athletic reports.
What happens if a player tests positive for COVID-19?
Originally, there was concern that a positive test could force a shutdown for the player's team and any teams he had recently come in contact with. On a conference call with players on May 8, however, Silver said he's hopeful that any player who tests positive will be quarantined and there won't be a need to shut down the team or the league. Via ESPN:
"Silver said the NBA's hope would be that players who'd test positive for the virus wouldn't require the shutting down of a team or season, but only the removal of a player amid constant testing of those who had come into contact with him."
Will the 2020 NBA Draft still be held on June 25?
There has been no official announcement, but it's not likely. The NBA Draft lottery and NBA Draft Combine have already been postponed indefinitely, and ESPN reports that the draft itself is expected to be moved to a different date.
What does this mean for next season?
If the 2019-20 season is completed, it's extremely likely that the start of the 2020-21 season, usually set for October, will be delayed. The idea of starting next season in December and having it run through next July or August has gained traction, according to ESPN. The start date could be pushed back regardless of whether or not the 2019-20 season is finished in an effort to have a better chance of holding games with fans in attendance.
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