The NBA is Heading to Disney World to Resume Its Season (Seriously)
Here it comes: the sports world is continuing to open back up after being crippled by the Coronavirus. Yesterday, ESPN reported that NBA league owners would soon vote on and approve a plan to resume the disrupted 2019-2020 season. The NBA suspended its season on March 11 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which saw several players around the league test positive.
Under the proposed plan, 22 teams will compete in the new format, playing all games at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida – forming a kind of league-wide bubble for the remainder of the season. ESPN reported that while players and coaches will be allowed to dine or do recreational activities while in the bubble, they will need to maintain social distancing, and undergo daily testing for COVID-19.
So the NBA's inviting 22 teams to Orlando: 13 Western Conference, 9 Eastern Conference. Eight-regular season games per team. Play-in for the 8th seeds. July 31-October 12. Vote tomorrow to ratify.
The NBA's back.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 3, 2020
The top eight teams in each of the NBA’s Eastern and Western conferences will play, as will those within six games of 8th place in each of the conferences, and thus still in contention for a final playoff spot.
Teams will begin training in July, playing eight “regular season” games before the playoffs begin. The final proposed date for a potential NBA Finals deciding game would be October 12.
If the 9th seed is within four games of the 8th seed at the end of regular season play, an unheard of “play-in” tournament will take place between the two teams. The 8th seed will need to beat the 9th seed just once to progress to the playoffs, while the 9th seed would need to win two consecutive games to steal the spot.
How Exactly Would The NBA Bubble Work?
Players, coaches and other team staff members will live at the Walt Disney World Resort for the rest of the season, based on how far each team progresses. All people in the bubble – including resort staff members – will be subject to a safety protocol, including social distancing and daily Coronavirus testing. No resort staff will be allowed in player locker rooms, and confined spaces like hallways and corridors will be carefully managed. Games will take place across two arenas, with multiple games taking place each day, at least for the remaining regular season games.
Which NBA Teams Have Been Invited to Compete in the Bubble?
The top 8 teams in each conference, and six more teams who are within six of the final playoff spot in each conference. The Eastern Conference teams are: the Milwaukee Bucks, the Toronto Raptors, the Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat, the Indiana Pacers, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Brooklyn Nets and the Orlando Magic. The Western Conference teams participating are: the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Denver Nuggets, the Utah Jazz, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Houston Rockets, the Dallas Mavericks and the Memphis Grizzlies.
What about questions of safety?
Many have pointed out serious flaws in the proposals of various sporting leagues to return under a bubble-like format. But leagues around the world – beleaguered by lost revenue from ticket sales and broadcast partners – have marched cautiously back to resumption. The German Bundesliga resumed its play last month, and both the Premier League and Serie A are expected to return this month.
For their part, star NBA players like LeBron James have said that they want play to resume as swiftly as is safety possible. Yesterday, Heavy.com reported that one NBA agent is seeing some reluctance from his clients. “Most of the guys are excited, fired up, they want to get back out there. Those are 95 percent of the conversations I have had. But then there are guys who are saying, 'Well, nothing has changed, there is no cure, there is no vaccine, why are we playing now?' If you’re answering honestly, it's for money. That's what is driving this for owners and players. And there may be players who will say, 'It's not worth the money for me.'"
What About Home Court Advantage?
Many have pointed out that, particularly in the playoffs – where the higher-seeded team earns home court advantage – the bubble may not prove to be a fair solution. Some are suggesting that teams that earn “home court advantage” should instead receive other benefits, like extra fouls for their players.
Who’s the Favourite to Win?
The Lakers and Clippers – stacked with talent like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George – are widely favoured to make it out of the Western conference, and maybe win it all. Of course, Giannis Antetokounmpo – the Greek 7-footer playing for Milwaukee – will remain a nightmare for opponents everywhere.