After closing its doors on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA has been non-committable about if and when its season would continue. And considering nearly every other collegiate and professional sport has been put on hold with no immediate return in sight, pessimism has been evident.
But today, the NBA came one step closer to being the first major sport to return to action.
This afternoon, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA is set to allow teams to open their practice facilities to players in cities and states where local governments have eased stay-at-home orders beginning May 1. As a result, players will be allowed to return to training in professional and safe environments as opposed to makeshift facilities they may have been using in recent weeks.
“Players can return to team facilities in states such as Georgia for voluntary individual workouts as soon as next week, which allows for NBA organizations to start allowing players to return to training in a professional, safe environment,” Wojnarowski said. “Teams will remain prohibited from holding group workouts or organized team activities, sources said. In markets in which more restrictive governance of stay-at-home orders remain in place, the NBA is telling teams the league will work with franchises to help find alternative arrangements for their players, sources said.”
While the report is optimism and sounds like a step in the right direction for the NBA season to continue, Wojnarowski added that this doesn’t necessarily change the timetable for a resumption of play this season.
“The NBA’s decision to reopen facilities based on the loosening of local governmental policies isn’t reflective of a new timetable for a resumption of play this season,” Wojnarowski said. “Commissioner Adam Silver and owners still believe they need more time for a clearer picture on whether, when or how they could possibly resume the season, sources said.”
Despite ESPN’s report, Sam Amick of The Athletic is reporting that “optimism is growing” that the NBA season can be saved.
“Yet despite all the worldwide despair that has come with these past few weeks, with America soaring to the top of the list in both coronavirus cases (633,267, with Spain second at 180,659) and deaths (28,278, with Italy second at 21,067), there’s a reality within NBA circles that is hard to reconcile at the moment,” Amick said. “When it comes to the prospect of saving this season in some form, sources say that optimism abounds in the ownership, player, agent and league office ranks.”
“For the NBA, which has approximately 80 percent of its regular season completed and so much financial incentive to cobble together some kind of postseason, the widespread optimism that this will happen remains,” Amick continued.
Among the potential options? A “Bubble City” of sorts, where players and team personnel would come together in a joint location – Las Vegas is a legitimate option – and remain in the same quarantined hotels and basketball facilities while they close out the season.
“By all accounts, Las Vegas appears to remain as the leader in the NBA’s quarantine clubhouse,” Amick added. “The combination of hotel space, hoops facilities and the rough blueprint that was built from all those summer leagues past is an interesting option, with all the teams staying under one sanitized roof. You also hear other scenarios in which teams might wind up playing in various locations.”
Will the NBA be the first sport to return?