When the NBA resumes play in Orlando on July 30, eight teams will be watching from home, wondering when they'll be able to take the floor again. The start date for the 2020-21 season has not been set in stone yet, although the idea of starting on Dec. 1 has been floated around. If that's the case, those eight teams will go nine months without playing organized basketball, but coaches and front office executives from those teams are hoping they'll be able to play some form of basketball before then.
During a conference call on Friday, where more details were discussed about the league's restart plan in Orlando, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts both acknowledged that there have been ongoing conversations to put something together for the eight teams -- Warriors, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Hawks, Pistons, Knicks, Bulls and Hornets -- not competing in July. However, anything created would have to be done using the same stringent safety protocols that the league is putting into place at Disney World.
"We want the same [safety] standards to be met," Tatum said. "There have been conversations that we've been having with the players association on how to do that and whether or not we can do that. We know it's something that our teams would love to do, that some of the players would love to do. But, as Michele said, it has to be done in the right way. We'll continue having those conversations with Michele and her team on what that looks like."
Detroit Pistons coach Dwane Casey has previously brought up the idea of holding a mini camp or summer league for the eight teams not included the NBA's Disney plan, but trying to operate two different bubble sites at the same time for the league might be incredibly difficult to pull off. While Tatum sounded a bit more optimistic on Friday's call that something could get done, Roberts wasn't so convinced.
"Candidly, while I appreciate that there will be a bit of a layoff, I think there are some things these teams can do to get the guys that are not playing some [benefit] by their not being involved in Orlando," Roberts said. "But unless we could replicate in every way the protocol that's been established for Orlando, I'd be -- I'm being tame now -- suspicious. I think there are conversations that could be had if there's anything we can do with the other eight teams. I know there are some players, particularly young players, that seem concerned they're not getting enough [opportunities]. I think our teams are incredibly smart and creative and can come up with ways to get their guys engaged, if not now, before the season starts."
Roberts went on further to talk about the players' safety if something like a summer league were to be done.
"But I am very concerned and frankly, my concern aside, our players, our teams are very concerned about any -- in terms of play that doesn't have the same guarantees of safety and health that we've provided for the teams in Orlando. So yeah, never say never, but there's a standard. It's a standard that's got to be met, and if it's not met, next question, as far as I'm concerned."
Whether it's a mini tournament for the teams to compete in, or a summer league-style format at a central location like Las Vegas, the eight teams not going to Orlando will be at a significant disadvantage if nothing is put into place before the next season starts. This is just another item on what seems like an endless list of concerns the NBA has to worry about in the near future as the league tries to reimagine itself in the middle of a pandemic.