After weeks of speculation, the National Basketball Association has confirmed it is officially in exploratory talks with the Walt Disney Company about resuming its season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, this summer.
NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement: “The NBA, in conjunction with the National Basketball Association Players Association, is engaged in exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about restarting the 2019-20 NBA season in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as a single site for an NBA campus for games, practices and housing.
“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,” Bass said.
Major League Soccer is also reportedly looking to resume its season at the same complex this summer. But the 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex provides plenty of room for both major leagues to resume activities. ESPN is a broadcast partner of both the NBA and MLS.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced that the state is open to all professional sports teams in the United States who want to resume action amid the global Covid-19 pandemic.
It remains unclear at this stage how exactly the NBA will resume its season, specifically whether there will be a regular season before a postseason or some form of play-in tournament to determine the playoff teams.
According to the New York Times, teams have been informed that they will likely be allowed to have about 35 members of the team – between staff, players and coaches – at the site. It remains unclear if fans will be allowed to attend, though it appears unlikely.
The reference to “single site” also seems to rule out another regional location, such as Las Vegas, Nevada, for the NBA’s return to competition.
NBA players have started to resume voluntary individual training at team facilities, where allowed by local health authorities. A minimum three-week training camp has been being discussed to resume the season, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told players earlier this month.
He added that he hoped that a positive Covid-19 test by a player would not require shutting down the season again, after it happened in March. The NBA reportedly wants 15,000 tests to resume and complete its season.
The NBA has indefinitely postponed the 2020 Draft Lottery and Draft Combine, which were scheduled to take place in Chicago in May. The NBA Draft – which is scheduled for June 25 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn – is likely to also be postponed.
The start of the 2020-21 season could also be pushed back until December.