Is the NBA really back?

Gauthier Meley discusses the reintroduction of the NBA, at Disney Land, Florida.

Gauthier Meley
24th June 2020
Image Credits: Julian Hochgesang from Unsplash
This was some of the biggest sporting news this week. After the restart of numerous leagues in Europe, the NBA is finally back. But there are a lot of questions following this decision. What is the plan? Why Orlando? When is it going to restart?

On June 4, the NBA’s Boards of Governors voted for the approval of the return of the NBA, with a ‘neutral’ ground based in Disney World, Florida. The Walt Disney Company, a sponsor of the league, and the NBA reached an agreement to use their resort to resume the season. This decision is made with the intention of avoiding long travels between cities, to control the propagation of the virus and the possibility for families to see the players, coaches and staff.

The Disney resort will be a 'little-city' for players, with a barbers, DJs, gaming-room and private cinemas. Each hotel will host 7 teams, with 3 hotels in total.

Players and all staff members will receive daily Coronavirus testing, and will follow social distancing protocols. There also won’t be any fans in attendance, except family members.

The Boards of Governors voted for a return of 22 teams, the 16 current playoff teams plus the addition of the Pelicans, Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs and Wizards, who all have a fair shot to be playoff teams. The remaining 8 teams are therefore eliminated from playoff contention, and are joining the lottery for the 2020 NBA draft later this year - date yet to be determined.

The rules of this new-look NBA are quite simple. All teams are going to play eight regular-season games to define the definitive standing. If a number 8 seed has four wins or more than the 9th seed, then they earn the playoff spot. However, if they don’t, the teams have to play a 'win-or-go-home' tournament, where the 8th seed would need one win to advance while the 9th seed would need two to go in the playoff.

All games are going to be played in the same arena, with three to four games per day. The first game should take place on July 31st, with the NBA finals starting in mid-October.

To make the return official the plan needs to be approved by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). No date has been given for the vote yet. Moreover, with the recent protests that've taken place in America, there are a large number of players who are a still sceptic about a return. Big names like Kyrie Irving or Dwight Howard expressed their opinion about a return, saying that the unity of their people is more important, and that a return of the NBA will move the spotlight from this. A large group of players have expressed their desire to boycott the rest of the season.

But on the contrary, some players like Kyle Kuzma or Austin Rivers see the return as a great opportunity to fight for equality even more, and that the idea of an NBA return doesn't necessarily mean that the protests will stop. Nonetheless, the idea of a boycott by the players is still imaginable and even realistic given what is happening in the US. The turning point will be a comment by Lebron James, being the NBA's most influential player. NBA commissioner Adam Silver might change everything to follow James’ stand.

In addition to the waiting of the NBPA’s decision, the state of Florida has seen it's Coronavirus cases reach new highs, with 2,581 new cases declared on Saturday 13th June. This more than triples the previous high of 679, according to the Florida’s Department of Health. This might force the government to change their laws about sports gatherings. The signs of an NBA return are not looking very good right now, and the final decision could realistically be to not restart the league.

Recent development show that the NBPA's decision is needed by June 24th at the latest.

Nevertheless, there is still hope, with a plan to return late July

Featured image source: Julian Hochgesang via Unsplash
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