The current COVID-19 pandemic has brought sport to a screeching halt across the planet, and has done so for a number of weeks now. The NBA is no exception, having been suspended after a number of players and personnel were tested and found positive.
All matches were suspended, players and staff were sent home to either isolate or quarantine, all facilities were closed too. However, there seems to have been a shift, with many believing the league has started down the path to restart.
Teams such as the Jazz, the Heat, and a handful of others have already opened up their training facilities to allow for highly regulated, individual workouts and training, and you can bet that this is a clear sign of the season slowly beginning to restart.
The biggest question on everybody’s mind though, is how or when will the season restart? Like many other sports, the NBA works in a season format, and therefore the current season would need to be completed, and then the postseason, with a break before the next one.
There have been serious discussions within the NBA on how to proceed forward, with all the outcomes clearly circling around player and fan safety and health. These solutions range from an 88-day league schedule to complete the season, to the more severe cancelling of the whole thing.
The NBA clearly hasn’t settled on a decision yet, and sources have put this down not only to the fact that the future is clearly unpredictable, but that decision can clearly change overnight depending on circumstance. Some solutions that have come to light are as follows:
The number one outcome would be allowing the league to safely complete the season, and postseason, with all 30 teams involved. This is obviously the outcome everybody wants, but it is highly dependent on time, as well as how the pandemic evolves in the coming weeks.
If the weeks continue to pass with no restart available, the league would possibly look to cancel regular season games and shorten the season. This would obviously need to be done carefully to ensure it is fair for every team.
If the entire regular season needs to be cancelled, the NBA would look to begin with the postseason, but only 16 teams would be involved. How these teams are chosen is still and unknown though.
The NBA is also discussing the idea of playing all remaining matches at a neutral venue, with all players and staff basically being isolated in one location, and playing as many games as possible to complete the season. This location has yet to be decided, with this solution being dependent on resources available and logistics.
Another issue that has risen is if the seasons of non-playoff teams have already ended. Teams like the Warriors, the Cavs, Pistons, Hawks, and Timberwolves are either already out of postseason contention, or on the verge.
There is the possibility that these are the teams that would be cut if the league needs to finish the season, but is unable to accommodate all the teams, and play the remaining games at a neutral venue.
The location for this neutral venue is still being discussed, but there is one location that is a clear favorite if needed, Disney World. Not only does it have the infrastructure to host games, but it has large grounds, thousands of hotel rooms, and the capability to form a “bubble”.
Fans have heard of this “bubble”, but it isn’t what you think. The league and the players are opposed to being locked up in hotel rooms for a month or two, this is why Disney has the clear edge for being a location for this bubble.
It can be easily regulated, players and staff will have the ability to move around the park as it is a controlled area with little to no Coronavirus risk, and they would also be able to socialize, to eat together, train together, watch a movie or whatever.
Using Disney as sort of a NBA Headquarters does sound like a great idea in theory. There is no word on if fans will be allowed, if family will be allowed, but these are all aspects that still need to be discussed and decided on.
People are also wondering when these decisions need to be made and finalized. The short version is that the later the league is willing to start the 2020-21 season, the later it can restart the current season.
There is obviously a point where a cut off will need to be made, but that isn’t anytime soon as there are still ways to condense this season and postseason, and begin next season in a timely fashion, with the schedule going back to normal the season after that.
The general consensus though is that the league would need to restart before January to ensure there isn’t a substantial loss of revenue, which will affect the league, the teams, and the players.
As mentioned above, so many of these outcomes are time dependent, as well as dependent on the path this virus takes. There is no doubt that the NBA wants to keep their fans and players healthy, but they also want to restart the season when it is safe to do so. Only time will tell, for now, fans just need to be patient and wait it out, but basketball is very much on the horizon again.