With the NRL becoming Australia's first footy code to step back on to the field in anger tomorrow night, fans of all sports across the world are getting ever more anxious about when or if their passions will return to finish out a season rocked by the Coronavirus pandemic.
For some leagues, it's easier than others. Australian sport should be back to normal sooner, rather than later, while in some European nations, soccer is already awakening from its months-long period of slumber.
But what about the NBA? The world's leading basketball league is approaching crunch time as it plans to finish up a 2020 season that, had the pandemic not hit, would be deep into play-off territory by now. But with the US still struggling as one of the countries affected the most severely by the virus, drastic alterations are going to be needed if a return to basketball can be pulled off safely.
Thankfully, though, there does seem to be a plan, as reports from America earlier this week detailed that the NBA is eyeing a July return to close out its season, with the association planning to take an entirely different approach to play in its quest to crown a champion. Here's what we know.
When will the NBA return?
The NBA released a statement this week saying that the association had commenced early-stage talks to re-commence its season in the coming months, with a tentative timeline of 'late July' in the works.
"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,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.
Instead of a return to the regular cross-country action that regularly sees teams travel up and down the States to play games, the rest of the season will take place in a common area. Las Vegas was tentatively laid out as a potential destination, but it now seems that a new location has been found.
Where will it take place?
The NBA announced that the talks being held were between the association and the Walt Disney Company, with view to using Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida. The complex, which spans more than 250 acres and forms part of the 40 square mile Disney Complex, will house the players, host training sessions, and also boasts a number of arenas that could be used for games. The complex hosted last year's Junior NBA World Championships. Commercially, the move would make sense, as ESPN, one of the NBA's chief broadcasters, is owned by the Disney company.
What will the season look like?
This is where things still remain a little uncertain. According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the NBA has reportedly held talks and surveyed coaches about closing out the season in three different ways
- Resuming the regular season with all 30 teams and then commence the playoffs
- Advancing directly to the playoffs, based on the standings from March 12
- A 'playoff-plus' idea which would expand the number of teams competing for a playoff spot with a play-in tournament
While the latter two seem most likely, it's also possible that the NBA could use a 'Summer League'-style format that would see multiple games played on a single day. It's known that the NBA, the teams and the NBA Players Association are also still in talks regarding when teams will be allowed to return to practice, with a potential two-week training camp being held before the resumption of any official play.
More will likely be revealed after a Board of Governers call on May 29.