The NBA is building momentum toward a resumption of the 2019-20 season, which came to a halt on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, but there are still many specifics to work out before professional basketball in the U.S. becomes a reality.
Things are changing rapidly with new information and restrictions being loosened around the country, so you might have questions about the current state of the NBA, and what this means for the future of the league. We’ve tried our best to answer them for you using both reporting and the words of NBA commissioner Adam Silver. We will keep this up-to-date as new information becomes available.
Can NBA teams practice right now?
Most NBA team facilities are now open for individual workouts, which follow strict safety protocols and a one-player-to-one-coach system. The league is expected to eventually issue guidelines for an expansion of individual workouts, ESPN reports. Players are also able to work out in home gyms, and teams like the Lakers and Clippers have reportedly organized safe workouts with a few players during the hiatus.
When will the NBA start playing games again?
There is no firm return date for the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season, but The Athletic reports that Silver told owners that the league is targeting July 31 as a potential restart date. If this is the case, teams would begin training camp in mid-to-late June. One reported return-to-play scenario involves a two-week training camp in team markets, followed by another two weeks of training and scrimmages at the single site, probably Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, before actual games resume.
An official plan to resume the 2019-20 season is expected to be approved by the NBA Board of Governors on Thursday, June 4, according to ESPN.
Where will games take place?
It appears almost certain that teams will not play in their home arenas to finish this season, and the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida has emerged as the front-runner to host all of the league’s games during the remainder of the 2019-20 season. The NBA and Walt Disney World are holding conversations about resuming play at the Orlando complex.
“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,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said on May 23. “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.”
Cities like Las Vegas and Houston were also reportedly on the table, but Orlando is the leader given its advantages of being a private property with the necessary facilities, hotels and amenities to continue the season.
What is a bubble site?
The term “bubble site” was given to the concept of finishing the season in a single city. The idea is that players and other personnel would be quarantined in their hotels and only travel to the facilities to play games and practice, limiting exposure to the coronavirus. This concept has been loosened a bit recently, with Lakers forward Jared Dudley saying that players would not be under strict directives to remain in their rooms at all times during off-hours, but instead, they would take a common-sense approach. Silver prefers the term “campus” to “bubble.” ESPN reports that the NBA is also exploring scenarios where select family members would be allowed to join players at the site after a certain number of teams have been eliminated.
Will fans be allowed to attend NBA games?
There is no indication that fans will be allowed in a single-site format for the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season. There is also uncertainty as to whether fans will be in seats for the 2020-21 season, which is part of the reason why the idea of pushing back the start of next season until December is reportedly gaining momentum. 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?”
Will the NBA finish the regular season or go straight to the playoffs?
ESPN reports that 22 teams are expected to be invited to Orlando, and that each team will play eight regular season games before commencing the playoffs with a play-in tournament for the eighth seed in each conference if the ninth seed finishes the regular season within four games of the final playoff spot. Following the play-in tournament, the playoffs would proceed as usual.
Those invited will reportedly include the 16 teams currently in playoff position, the four teams closest to the No. 8 seed in the West (Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs) and the Suns and Wizards, who are each within six games of the final playoff spot in their respective conferences.
Which NBA teams will be invited?
If the NBA approves the 22 team plan, which it is expected to do, the following teams will be invited to resume the season in Orlando:
Los Angeles LakersLos Angeles ClippersDenver NuggetsUtah JazzOklahoma City ThunderHouston RocketsDallas MavericksMemphis GrizzliesPortland Trail BlazersNew Orleans PelicansSacramento KingsSan Antonio SpursPhoenix Suns
Milwaukee BucksToronto RaptorsBoston CelticsMiami HeatIndiana PacersPhiladelphia 76ersBrooklyn NetsOrlando MagicWashington WizardsWill the playoffs be shortened?
As of now, Silver is hopeful that there will be full seven-game series in each round of the playoffs. The lack of travel in a single-site format would allow for series to be completed faster, Silver added. There was an option on the table to replace the traditional first round of the playoffs with a World Cup-style group stage, but that idea only received the support of 25 percent of NBA general mangers in a recent survey, according to The Ringer.
A potential play-in tournament for the final playoff spots, followed by a full, traditional playoffs appears to be most likely at this point.
How much money will the NBA lose if the season is canceled?
There is no firm number, but Sam Amick of The Athletic reports that “the lost national television revenue from these playoffs alone would be approximately $900 million.” That’s not including potential lost revenue from the remaining regular-season games or the money lost from not having fans in attendance, so the number could potentially end up in the billions. The economic impact of the hiatus could mean alterations to the salary cap beginning as soon as next season, but no determinations have been made at this point.
How will the NBA test for COVID-19?
While the NBA faced criticism in March for testing NBA players while patients and healthcare workers around the country were struggling to acquire them, Silver seems confident that testing will be available and plentiful when NBA play resumes. Via ESPN:
Silver expressed confidence there would be enough mass testing available in the United States for the league to feel confident about using such a large number of tests. Once the NBA is ready to play in the next couple of months, Silver said, “We won’t be taking tests from needy people.”
Ideally, players and NBA personnel on-site would be tested frequently, if not daily, to quickly and accurately identify carriers of the coronavirus. The NBA is in discussions with national coronavirus testing providers such as BioReference Laboratories, LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics and Vault Health/RUCDR Infinite Biologics at Rutgers to shore up its testing program, The Athletic reports.
What happens if a player tests positive for COVID-19?
Originally, there was concern that a positive test could force a shutdown for the player’s team and any teams he had recently come in contact with. On a conference call with players on May 8, however, Silver said he’s hopeful that any player who tests positive will be quarantined and there won’t be a need to shut down the team or the league. Via ESPN:
“Silver said the NBA’s hope would be that players who’d test positive for the virus wouldn’t require the shutting down of a team or season, but only the removal of a player amid constant testing of those who had come into contact with him.”
Will the 2020 NBA Draft still be held on June 25?
There has been no official announcement, but it’s not likely. The NBA Draft lottery and NBA Draft Combine have already been postponed indefinitely, and ESPN reports that the draft itself is expected to be moved to a different date.
What about free agency?
The league will need to figure out when the season ends before it can iron out dates for the draft and free agency. One change that’s being discussed is moving free agency ahead the draft, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey. The free agency period was scheduled to begin on June 30 at 6 p.m. ET before the season was suspended indefinitely.
What does this mean for next season?
If the 2019-20 season is completed, it’s extremely likely that the start of the 2020-21 season, usually set for October, will be delayed. The idea of starting next season in December and having it run through next July or August has gained traction, according to ESPN. The start date could be pushed back regardless of whether or not the 2019-20 season is finished in an effort to have a better chance of holding games with fans in attendance.