NBA in 'exploratory' talks with Disney about resuming 2019-20 season in late July at Orlando site

The NBA may have identified a location for a resumption of the 2019-20 season, which has been suspended since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement from NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass on Saturday, the league has entered into exploratory talks with the Walt Disney Company about restarting the remainder of the season at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida in late July.

"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. 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."  

Las Vegas, which has been considered the front-runner as a bubble site for some time, reportedly remains a candidate to host games as well, but Orlando as a sole site is the most likely scenario assuming testing and hotel requirements are sufficiently ironed out,  according to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic. As such, Walt Disney World has begun the early stages of preparing some of its hotel spaces for potential housing of the NBA and its needs, Keith Smith of Yahoo reports. Per Smith, a Disney employee said that the site is prepared to host the league for as long as it takes to complete the season. 

In recent weeks, some of the league's most influential players, including LeBron James and Chris Paul, have united in their desire to continue the season so long as it's deemed safe by health experts. This comes amid opponents like Shaquille O'Neal, who has suggested the season should be officially canceled

If games were to resume, there remains no word on whether the league would aim to finish the regular season in some capacity -- three-fourths of the season is already completed -- or move straight into the playoffs. The latter seems likeliest, but that has not been confirmed. The league reportedly sent a memo to all 30 general managers on Friday night with questions regarding various return-to-competition formats for the league. Questions included if the league should hold a postseason play-in tournament, how many teams should be involved in the postseason and how many games should be played before postseason play. 

More information regarding a potential return to action will become available in the coming days and weeks as the league tries to hammer down a feasible plan. The NBA's Board of Governors is set to hold a call on Friday, May 29, per Charania, at which point some major decisions could be made.  On May 12, commissioner Adam Silver relayed to the league's Board of Governors that he wanted to make a final decision on whether the league would return to action within two to four weeks, with the hope being for games to tip off by mid-July, which would likely impact the beginning of next season. 

On that front, the proposal to push back the start of the 2020-21 season to around Christmas also appears to be gaining steam, which was a topic of discussion even before the coronavirus hiatus moved it to the forefront of the conversation. 

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