It’s Official: The NBA Season is Resuming
2020 has been quite a year. With the coronavirus sweeping the world stage and creating life-altering changes for everyone, the NBA has been no exception. When news of the virus and its contagiousness first broke, discussions of how it would affect the sports world began. As thousands of fans pack into arenas and stadiums all over the country to cheer on their team, this became a big concern for spreading the virus. At first, there were rumors that games would go on, but in empty arenas in hopes to keep fans safe and limit the spread. This became an unpopular idea with many professional athletes as the fans bring an unmatched energy to the game. Lebron James was one of the players who initially spoke out, refusing to play without fans in the arena. Said, Lebron:
“We play games without the fans? Nah, that’s impossible,” James told The Associated Press. “I ain’t playing if I ain’t got the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates, and I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. So if I show up to an arena and there ain’t no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do.”
It wasn’t until the NBA experienced the virus first hand when players Rudy Gobert & Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz were diagnosed positive for the virus. The NBA had no choice but to postpone the season altogether so they could protect its players and fans. Since then, it’s been a somber couple months where our homes would have normally been filled with game day cheering with friends and family, to resorting to reruns of old games and highlights.
New Season, New Format
It was on March 11, 2020, that the NBA officially suspended the season, and at that point, we had no idea what the future held for the season. Little did we know, almost three months later, on June 4, 2020, our basketball prayers would be answered with the official announcement that the season would resume. The NBPA issued this statement:
"The Board of Player Representatives of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) has approved further negotiations with the NBA on a 22-team return to play scenario to restart the 2019-20 NBA season. Various details remain to be negotiated and the acceptance of the scenario would still require that all parties reach agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play."
The 22 teams that will be participating are Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference and the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference. These teams are comprised of 8 teams from each conference, along with six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conference.
NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, addressed their plan to resume in a statement:
"The Board's approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season. While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts. We also recognize that as we prepare to resume play, our society is reeling from recent tragedies of racial violence and injustice, and we will continue to work closely with our teams and players to use our collective resources and influence to address these issues in very real and concrete ways."
A start day of July 31 is currently the target date for the official return. The exact game schedule has not yet been released, only the schedule leading up to the official start date which includes June 30 training camp and a July 7 travel date for players to arrive in Orlando.
The NBA Coronavirus Preventions
Given the extreme contagiousness of the coronavirus, we have all been wondering how sporting events would come back and in what format. The NBA season return is certainly paving the way for other leagues and seems to be taking major precautions with some tweaks to how games will be played. It has been confirmed that Disney World in Orlando Florida will be hosting the games, offering a “home base” for players and their families. Disney World will be a single site campus for all games, practices, and housing for the remainder of the season, which would ultimately prevent travel and risk of exposure.
It's clear the NBA is taking every precaution to keep their players healthy and safe. The NBA and the NBPA are working with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials to ensure the players and their families will stay safe and to mitigate any risks of exposure. These precautions include daily coronavirus testing with positive results requiring a quarantine of at least 7 days, restricting showering at the arenas (players are required to use their hotel rooms), bench players sit in “social distanced” rows being spread out, inactive players are to watch at a further distance from the stands, and restricting players’ guests until the playoffs.
What does this mean for next season?
There have been concerns that this late July start day could cause problems for next season, as the seven-game format for the postseason, plus two months for playoffs would leave the final Game 7 to fall mid-October. There has been speculation next season would commence Christmas Day, allotting only a short 2.5 months for players to train and get their vacation time in. This time crunch poses a threat to the players’ health, as the risk of injury would be much higher and leave inadequate time for careful and strategic training… not to mention much needed time off players need to heal after a physically grueling season.
As we did in March when the postponement news first broke, all we can do is keep our eyes and ears peeled as we wait for schedules and plans to be finalized. For now, it’s for certain that every fan and super-fan is still reeling at the great news that the season is starting up again, and that is what we’ll focus on for now.