Chinese basketball season to restart on June 20

Chinese Basketball Association chairman Yao Ming during the press conference for the CBA league 2018-19 at Cadillac Arena in Beijing, China. (Photo by Xinyu Cui/Getty Images)

The Chinese Basketball Association announced on Thursday that its suspended 2019-20 season will resume on June 20 after an almost five-month interruption.

Games will be played in two cities only – Dongguan, in the southern Guangdong province, and Qingdao, in Shandong province – for the remainder of the season.

ESPN reports that the league’s 20 teams have been divided into two groups – Qingdao, Xinjiang, Liaoning, Zhejiang, Beijing, Guangsha, Nanjing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Bayi will play in Qingdao; and Guangdong, Shandong, Shanxi, Beikong, Jilin, Fujian, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Sichuan and Tianjin will play in Dongguan.

There are to be four to six games each day, and the season is to be completed by July 4, according to ESPN. The games will be played in empty arenas and teams will follow strict hygiene protocols, Xinhua reports.

Many teams will be without foreign players who left the country as Covid-19 spread and either cannot make it back due to travel restrictions, or do not want to return.

The CBA stopped for its Chinese New Year break in January and has not been able to return to the court due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is the first of China’s major sports leagues to restart after the pandemic.

The CBA’s plan for the restart has been approved by Chinese sports and health officials, after months of discussions between the league, local government, health experts and the country’s athletic governing body, according to ESPN.

Last month, Yao Ming, the CBA’s president, put forward three options to resume the season – finish the season using the original schedule, play a truncated season, or jump right to the finals. Health officials responded by asking for more detail on the league’s disease control measures.

At the end of May, with the outbreak easing in China, health officials agreed an updated restart plan with the CBA.

Teams have begun testing players for Covid-19 ahead of the restart.