After months of delay, numerous obstacles and dozens of positive COVID-19 tests, the NBA will resume the 2019-20 season on Thursday night. The Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans will meet in the first game of a double-header, with the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers closing the show.
There are 22 teams inside the league's bubble environment at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and they'll each play eight seeding games over the next two weeks. Those contests will determine the playoff standings, with a possible play-in series between the No. 8 and No. 9 seed of each conference if the ninth seed is within four games of the eighth seed.
From there, the postseason will commence in a traditional format, with seven-game series in each round until a champion is crowned, but all of this is contingent on the bubble maintaining its safety. So far, at least, the experiment has worked, with zero positive tests since the initial arrival and quarantine period.
Ahead of the first games, here's a breakdown of how everything is working in Orlando.
When will the NBA start playing games in Orlando?
Seeding games begin on July 30, with the playoffs set to tip-off on Aug. 17. If necessary, play-in games for the No. 8 seed will take place on Aug. 15 and 16. The NBA Finals will begin on Sept. 30 and end no later than Oct. 13.
What will the schedule look like?
The full NBA schedule can be found here, and here is a general overview of what things will look like over the next few months.
- July 30-Aug. 14: Seeding games
- Aug.15-16: Play-in tournaments
- Aug. 17: Playoffs begin
- Aug. 30: Family/guests of teams arrive
- Aug. 31-Sept. 13: Conference semifinals
- Sept. 15-Sept. 28: Conference finals
- Sept. 30-Oct. 13: NBA Finals
Which NBA teams are invited to Orlando?
The following teams have been invited to resume the season in Orlando:
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Denver Nuggets
- Utah Jazz
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Houston Rockets
- Dallas Mavericks
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Portland Trail Blazers
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Sacramento Kings
- San Antonio Spurs
- Phoenix Suns
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Toronto Raptors
- Boston Celtics
- Miami Heat
- Indiana Pacers
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Brooklyn Nets
- Orlando Magic
- Washington Wizards
How many players will be on NBA rosters?
Teams will be allowed to bring as many as 17 players to Orlando, with playoff rosters consisting of 15 total players -- 13 active and two inactive, according to ESPN.
Are players required to go to Orlando?
No. Between the coronavirus, concerns about the quarantine situation and the desire to continue fighting for social justice, there are all sorts of valid reasons for players to be wary about going to Orlando. Ahead of the departure date, teams sent questionnaires to players and coaches to determine whether they were healthy enough to make the trip.
If a team decides a player is high-risk from a health perspective, they may be excused from Orlando, and will still receive their full salary. Any other player is free to opt-out of playing, and will not be in breach of their contract. However, if they voluntarily decide not to play, they will not be paid for those missed games.
Which Disney hotel will the players stay in?
Here's a look at where players and staff members are residing during the season. It's worth noting that the teams with the eight best records in the league will stay at the Gran Destino, which is one of the newest Disney World resorts. The Gran Destino opened on July 9, 2019. The Grand Floridian opened up in 1988 but has obviously seen plenty of renovations throughout the years.
- Gran Destino: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers, Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat
- Grand Floridian: Thunder, 76ers, Rockets, Pacers, Mavericks, Nets, Grizzlies, Magic
- Yacht Club: Blazers, Kings, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns, Wizards
Will fans be allowed to attend NBA games?
Fans will not be allowed for the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season. However, players inside the Orlando bubble will have the ability to attend games they are not playing in.
There is also uncertainty as to whether fans will be in seats for the 2020-21 season. 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?"
How will the NBA test for COVID-19?
The league and the NBPA have developed a series of stringent protocols for testing and safety practices. Anyone who has entered the NBA bubble at Disney World has undergone testing beginning in the week of June 23-30 in their home markets.
Anyone entering the Orlando "bubble" is required to quarantine for up to 48 hours until they register two negative COVID-19 tests. Any players who leave the bubble environment would undergo quarantine of up to 10 days upon their return to Disney, and will need to register two negative tests as well as an antibody test before returning to play.
Everyone in the bubble is tested each night, with the results coming the following morning. Everyone traveling with each team -- players, coaches and staff -- are required to acknowledge in writing that they will follow the league's safety precautions, according to The Athletic.
What other measures is the league taking to keep players safe?
The league cannot guarantee that no one will contract COVID-19, but they are taking many precautions besides just testing players. Measures range from small changes such as asking that players refrain from licking their fingers during practices and games, to wearable biometric devices that can measure vital signs.
Furthermore, there are restrictions on who players can congregate with while they are on campus. Until teams begin scrimmaging on July 22, they are asked to only interact with players and coaches in their own hotel and to take social distancing measures into consideration when doing so. After scrimmages and games begin, players will then be free to interact with anyone on campus.
At no point, however, will players be allowed into anyone else's hotel room. In addition, everyone will be required to wear a face mask in any common area, unless they are eating or doing physical activity.
Among the above rules, the league and the players have agreed upon certain extenuating circumstances that will allow players to leave campus, including the birth of a child, a death in the family or other medical or personal emergencies, according to ESPN.
In addition, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report that there is an anonymous hotline to report potential violations of the protocols in Orlando, which has already been active.
What happens if a player tests positive for COVID-19?
Any player who tests positive will be required to quarantine for a minimum of seven days, according to The Athletic. According to multiple sources, any player who contracts the coronavirus or gets injured can be replaced, but the replaced player will not be eligible to return to the Orlando bubble.
Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA protocol for a positive coronavirus test result is as follows:
- Enter immediate isolation/separate location -- "Isolation Housing"
- Retest to confirm positive
- Exit isolation after consecutive negative tests and return to activities
However, the occurrence of a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the resumption of the 2019-20 season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
What about the Disney staff?
The staff working at NBA bubble sites such as hotels and arenas will not be required to quarantine as of now, but according to The Athletic, they will face strict protocols such as the following:
- Always wearing face masks/gloves
- Strict physical distancing, never within six feet of an NBA participant
- Temperature/symptom checks
- Housekeeping staff will never be in the room at the same time as NBA participants
What amenities will players and coaches have?
The restrictions of the quarantine situation are a major issue for many players, as they'll be isolated from their families from weeks. In order to try and keep players healthy and happy, the league is looking to making things as normal as possible.
That means there will be everything from barbers and manicurists, to a lounge for video games, to DJ sets and movie screenings. There will also be numerous options for outdoor activities, including golf and swimming. Players will also be allowed to attend other games on their off days, per The Athletic.