On Friday, the NBA and the NBPA officially announced that together they have finalized a plan for the resumption of the 2019-20 season to begin on July 30 in Orlando. Per the league, the restart of the season will include "stringent health and safety protocols, a single-site campus at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the goal of taking collective action to combat systemic racism and promote social justice."
As previously reported, 22 of the league's 30 teams will travel to Florida. The teams that were selected to go were the eight teams in each conference with the highest current winning percentages and the six total teams (five in the West, one in the East) that were within six games of the eighth seed in their conference when the season was suspended on March 11. All of the teams will play eight "seeding games" starting on July 30, then begin a typical playoff format that will culminate in October. The playoffs will proceed in a traditional conference-based format with four rounds and best-of-seven series in each round. The final game of the season will be played no later than Oct. 13. No fans will be permitted at games.
"We have worked together with the Players Association to establish a restart plan that prioritizes health and safety, preserves competitive fairness and provides a platform to address social justice issues," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "We are grateful to our longtime collaborator Disney for its role in playing host and making this return to play possible, and we also thank the public health officials and infectious disease specialists who helped guide the creation of comprehensive medical protocols and protections."
"It is very exciting to officially announce the restart of the 2019-2020 season," NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts added. "It has taken true collaboration between the League and the Union – special kudos to our Executive Committee and several other team reps – along with the continued support and assistance from medical experts, public health officials and many others. Additionally, our platform in Orlando presents a unique opportunity to extend the ongoing fight against systemic racism and police brutality in this country. We will continue to work with our players and the League to develop specific plans in Orlando as well as long-term initiatives to bring about real change on these issues."
The official announcement from the league comes despite the fact that COVID-19 cases are actually surging in Florida. On Friday, the NBA announced that just over five percent of all players tested positive for the virus this week. Per the league, any player who tested positive will remain in self-isolation until they satisfy public health protocols for discontinuing isolation and have been cleared by a physician.
Among the players that tested positive this week were Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokic, Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, and Kings players Buddy Hield, Alex Len and Jabari Parker. Other players such as Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, and Marcus Smart tested positive for the virus back in March, and have since been cleared. Once in Orlando, any player who tests positive will be required to quarantine for a minimum of seven days, and get two straight negative test results before they are permitted to return to action. Any player who contracts the coronavirus -- or gets injured -- in Orlando can be replaced, but the replaced player will not be eligible to return to the "bubble" environment.
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, and as such players aren't contractually required to participate. 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.
The situation isn't ideal, but the NBA is clearly determined to finish the current campaign, and they appear to be taking all of the possible precautions in order to ensure the safety of all involved. Is the plan foolproof? No, but few are. Ultimately, the league just has to hope that the juice will be worth the squeeze when it comes to finishing out the season in Orlando.