Restart Notes: ’20/21 Plan, Bubbles, COVID-19 Tests, More

The NBA’s “re-opening” night on Thursday was a major success, with both games going back and forth and coming down the wire, as the Jazz and Lakers scored winning baskets in the final seconds of their respective contests.

While the NBA’s “bubble” experiment at Walt Disney World is off to a promising start, the league is facing an uncertain future for next season — even if the 2019/20 campaign can be finished without any further hitches.

After NBPA executive director Michele Roberts spoke this week about the possibility of the NBA playing at a single site in ’20/21 as well, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported (via Twitter) that the league’s priority is till to get fans into arenas next season. However, unless the coronavirus pandemic is far more under control four months from now, it’s hard to see how the NBA will be able to fill teams’ home arenas by December 1, the proposed start date for next season.

As Wojnarowski notes – and as an early-July report indicated – the NBA continues to brainstorm potential ideas for the 2020/21 season and remains in the early stages of planning, with everything on the table. According to Wojnarowski, playing games in “regional pods” is one idea that has been discussed, but the league’s preference would be for any such “bubbles” to be finite in length — for instance, a month or two in, followed by a month out.

That report three weeks ago from Alex Silverman of Morning Consult suggested that the NBA is mulling the possibility of pushing next season’s start date well into 2021 (perhaps to March) in the hopes that a coronavirus vaccine or improved therapeutic treatment for COVID-19 will be available, increasing the odds of getting fans into arenas by then. For now, the plan for the ’20/21 campaign remains very much up in the air.

Here’s more on the NBA’s restart:

  • As Andrew Keh of The New York Times writes, “bubbles” seem to be working for the sports that have gone in that direction, but it’s unlikely that leagues will want to continue playing indefinitely in secluded campus-like environments.
  • The NBA announced this week that it’s launching a new community program to provide thousands of no-cost COVID-19 tests in Orlando and in team markets around the country. The league has been wary of the optics of its players being tested daily and getting speedy results while there have been testing shortages and delays for the public, so this program appears designed to help address that issue.
  • In an interesting story, Josh Robbins of The Athletic looks at how a 30,000-square-foot ballroom at Walt Disney World has been transformed into a warehouse to accommodate upwards of 1,000 delivered packages per day. As Robbins details, players have been getting plenty of items delivered to Disney World in an effort to make the NBA’s campus feel more like home. “I’m about $5 grand in with Amazon since I’ve been in here,” Heat big man Udonis Haslem said. “I’m good now. I don’t think I need anything else for the next three months. … I got a coffee machine. I got some snacks. I got my leg pumps. I got everything.”
  • Within ESPN’s breakdown of Thursday’s restart, Tim Bontemps contends that the virtual fan boards around the courts – a good idea in theory – were glitchy and were “more of a distraction than an aid to the viewing experience.”
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