A Reduced Field But the NBA Finals Remain
A total of 22 teams are set to compete at the ESPN Wide World of Sport Complex in Orlando, Florida. All remaining games will take place at Walt Disney World, starting from July 31st. The idea is to have the remainder of the season completed in 74 days.
The NBA is determined to make this happen so players have adequate time to prepare for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
The league has made it clear that if there’s no need to play additional games to determine the eight-seeded teams that make the play-offs they will move aggressively to bring the start of the playoffs forward, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Games will initially be played at the Visa Athletic Center, The Arena, and HP Field House, with five to six games per day. The NBA has branded these ‘seeding games’, with weekday afternoon games likely during the first round of the playoffs.
The playoff format and the NBA finals are expected to remain the same, except without any home advantage.
All games will be played without fans and a limited number of off-field personnel.
How Will the NBA Combat Coronavirus?
The NBA intends on rolling out mass testing across the league. Players returning from overseas face a likely two-week quarantine, according to current Federal guidelines. However, the NBA hopes to be able to secure exemptions for overseas stars.
With many players returning to their hometowns, teams will need to reassemble, which will likely involve a team self-isolation within hotels in the Orlando area.
There’s expected to be a four-hour gap between NBA games, to allow for warmups and a thorough cleaning of the facility each time.
Teams are expected to relocate to Florida by July 7th, three weeks before the season is set to begin.
How has the National Basketball Players Association Reacted?
The 22-team format for the conclusion of the NBA season has been signed off by representatives of the National Basketball Players Association. However, the union and the league are still working together to compromise on some of the finer details.
Initially, the league considered inviting only the 16 teams currently occupying the play-off sports in each conference. However, with players looking at $645 million in lost salaries by canceling all remaining regular-season games, the league has opted for the 22-team compromise.
The compromise will save $300 million in losses.
The league is also justifying its decision by using a historical context of teams making a late playoff run, thus enabling the six teams just outside the play-off spots to participate.
Why has the NBA Announced a Comeback Now?
Back in April, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver spoke to the media about what it would take to restart the NBA season.
He said, “I think we’re looking for the number of new coronavirus infections to come down. We’re looking for the availability of testing on a large scale. We’re looking at the path that we’re on for potentially a vaccine. We’re looking at antivirals. On top of that, we’re paying close attention to what the CDC is telling us on a Federal level and what these various state rules are in place.”
While many of these conditions have been met already, it’s unclear as to what could happen if coronavirus infections spike between now and the start of the modified season.
In early May, the NBA also reduced its standard for mass testing and accepted the fact that the league may unable to be completely virus free. When the league initially shutdown, the positive test of Rudy Gobert was enough to close the league. It appears that the standard won’t be continued when the season resumes.
The NBA has yet to release plans for how it will handle another positive test in Florida.
In the meantime, it’s full speed ahead for the NBA’s return.