The NBA is in talks with The Walt Disney Company in a single-site setting for the resumption of play in Central Florida in late July, the clearest sign so far that the league believes the season may continue amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Basketball Players Association is also part of the talks with Disney, the league said Saturday. The games would be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a massive campus on Disney property near Orlando.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the talks were still "exploratory,quot; and that the Disney site would also be used for practices and housing.
"Our priority remains 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 adequate medical protocols and protections exist," Bass said.
The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is a 255-acre campus with multiple arenas that could host games simultaneously and has been home to, among other things, the Jr. NBA World Championship in recent years. ESPN, one of the NBA's broadcast partners, is owned by Disney.
Space won't be an issue, even if Major League Soccer, which is also in talks to resume its Disney season, is there at the same time as the NBA. The entire Disney complex is approximately 40 square miles, with nearly 24,000 Disney-owned or operated hotel rooms on campus.
The NBA suspended its season on March 11, making it the first of the top US professional leagues. USA In doing so after it was revealed that Utah Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The list of NBA players known to test positive finally grew to 10, not all of which were identified, and Commissioner Adam Silver said last month that the actual total was even higher.
But the league has been working on countless return-to-game scenarios for several weeks, all with the caveat that testing would be an integral part of any resumption of the season.
It is still unknown where the NBA is in the process of securing testing or developing large-scale test protocols. It's also unclear: how many regular-season games would be played before the postseason begins, or if all 30 teams would be playing. The league has asked team general managers for additional input on those issues.
Los Angeles Lakers' Jared Dudley said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that he believes the playoffs, every time they start, will be the traditional best-of-seven format.
"That's the money winner when it comes to Disney," said Dudley. "So that's why we're going to be in Orlando. Disney owns ESPN. That's where they make their money. During the playoffs and finals, there will be seven games. I'm almost 100% sure of that."
Central Florida has been known as a viable option to organize an NBA restart since at least mid-April, and other cities, such as Las Vegas, which also has a long-standing relationship with the NBA, were also considered.
Florida has confirmed just over 50,000 cases of COVID-19, although more than half of them are in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and not in the Orlando area. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he wants the state to be open for professional sports, including telling non-Florida-based franchises that they can come to Sunshine state and train if there are restrictions that prevent it in their own places.
“The places are opening up. Let's not forget that COVID is not magically less contagious now, "Malcolm Miller of the Toronto Raptors tweeted Saturday." The virus itself did not improve … stay safe. "
Teams have been allowed to welcome players to their training facilities for volunteer sessions since May 8, and more than half of the league's franchises have taken advantage of that opportunity.
The next steps along a path to return to the game would likely include loosening the restrictions for those volunteer workouts [currently no more than four players are allowed inside any facility at a time] and then a plan for when they could open the training camps. If the league plans to resume play in late July, the camps could possibly open early that month.
Reprogramming at least some regular season games could be a huge advantage for players, even though some teams are out of the playoff mix.
The league may take about 1.08% percent of a player's salary for each regular season game not played if what the league's collective bargaining agreement with its players describes as a "Force Majeure Event," the Legal term for unforeseeable circumstances such as an epidemic or pandemic, is enacted.
The more regular season games are played, the less money players will lose.