More than two months after it postponed its season because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA made a first official step in its attempt to return.
The league announced Saturday it was pursuing negotiations with the Walt Disney Company to resume its season in late July at the company’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
This would serve as the NBA’s so-called “bubble” site to resume play. Teams would be quarantined on the property, and all workouts and games would take place at facilities there.
“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,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement.
Las Vegas reportedly was also under consideration as the site.
Just what form the rest of the NBA season would take remains unknown. It is not guaranteed that all teams will play more games.
ESPN reported that it’s possible the league could decide to keep teams near the bottom of the standings out of the equation in the interest of safety and logistics — the fewer people that are in the bubble site, the less chance of an infection piercing the bubble.
This would affect the Timberwolves, who had the second-worst record in the Western Conference when play was stopped.
This was the first statement the league has released on its potential to return to play. Previously, Commissioner Adam Silver indicated all options were on the table, including the cancellation of the rest of this season. But the league now appears set on continuing in some form, even if it means delaying the start of next season.
There are reports the league is considering pushing back the start of next season to around Christmas in order to accommodate the completion of this season and an offseason.
Many details must still be ironed out in the coming weeks, including where teams will first reassemble (whether in their home markets or in Orlando) and what testing protocols will be in place in order for play to resume safely.