The NBA’s plan to resume the 2019-20 season, which was halted on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, has been approved by the Board of Governors and the players, paving the way for 22 teams to head to Orlando, Florida to resume play at the end of July. What we’ve learned in the weeks since, however, is that there are still many questions as to how — and even whether — the season will resume.
As of now the plan is for each of the 22 teams to play eight “seeding” games to determine playoff standings, with a possible play-in series between the No. 8 and No. 9 seed of each conference if the ninth seed is within four games of the eighth seed. The playoffs would then commence in a traditional format, with seven-game series in each round until a champion is crowned.
Players have recently voiced their concerns about a return based on a wide range of topics, most notably their health, social justice issues, and the restrictions they’ll face in the bubble. Though the return-to-play plan was approved by the NBPA, players will not be forced to continue the season if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.
The resumption will obviously look quite different from a traditional season, with players sequestered at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. You might have questions about how this whole bubble site thing will work, so we’ve tried our best to answer them for you using both reporting and information directly from the league. We will keep this up-to-date as new information becomes available.
When will the NBA start playing games in Orlando?
The initial projected start date of July 31 has been moved up to July 30, according to ESPN, however, there are still other approvals required before locking this date in. The invited teams will start training in Orlando between July 9-11, according to ESPN. The last game of the NBA Finals would be no later than Tuesday, Oct. 13.
What will the schedule look like?
The schedule for the seeding games has yet to be revealed, however there are reports that the league is attempting to stick as closely as possible to the remaining games on the original NBA schedule. Here is the proposed timeline for the resumption of the 2019-20 season, which is still subject to change, according to ESPN and The Athletic:
- June 30-July 7: In-market training camps
- July 7-11: Teams travel to Orlando
- July 9-29: Training camps in Orlando
- July 30-Aug. 14: Seeding games
- Aug.15-16: Play-in tournaments
- Aug. 17: Playoffs begin
- Aug. 30: Family/guests of teams arrive
- Aug. 31-Sept. 13: Conference semifinals
- Sept. 15-Sept. 28: Conference finals
- Sept. 30-Oct. 13: NBA Finals
Which NBA teams are invited to Orlando?
The following teams have been invited to resume the season in Orlando:
How many players will be on NBA rosters?
Teams will be allowed to bring as many as 17 players to Orlando, with playoff rosters consisting of 15 total players — 13 active and two inactive, according to ESPN. There will be a one-week roster window in late June for teams to sign new players or convert two-way contracts to standard contracts before entering the bubble.
Will fans be allowed to attend NBA games?
There is no indication that fans will be allowed for the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season. There is also uncertainty as to whether fans will be in seats for the 2020-21 season. Silver said the league is exploring the possibility of bringing back fans in a 15-20 percent capacity during the 2020-21 season.
“Assuming a vaccine isn’t coming any time soon, are there things we can do in our arenas where maybe we can’t have 19,000 people, but maybe we can have 5,000 people? Silver told players on a conference call, via ESPN. “Maybe we can have 8,000 people? Maybe there are protocols allowing for it?”
How will the NBA test for COVID-19?
The league and the NBPA are still developing a series of stringent protocols for testing and safety practices. Anyone planning to enter the NBA bubble at Disney World will have to undergo testing, beginning in the week of June 23-30, according to The Athletic.
The New York Times reports that anyone entering the Orlando “bubble” would be required to quarantine for up to 48 hours until they register two negative COVID-19 tests. Any players who leave the bubble environment would undergo a 10-day quarantine upon their return to Disney, according to ESPN, and will need to register two negative tests before returning to play.
Everyone in the bubble is expected to be tested each night, with the results coming the following morning. The NBA is in discussions with national coronavirus testing providers such as BioReference Laboratories, LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics and Vault Health/RUCDR Infinite Biologics at Rutgers to shore up its testing program, The Athletic reports.
What happens if a player tests positive for COVID-19?
Any player who tests positive will be required to quarantine for a minimum of seven days, according to The Athletic. According to multiple sources, any player who contracts the coronavirus or gets injured can be replaced, but the replaced player will not be eligible to return to the Orlando bubble.
What about the Disney staff?
The staff working at NBA bubble sites such as hotels and arenas will not be required to quarantine as of now, but according to The Athletic they will face strict protocols such as the following:
- Always wearing facemasks/gloves
- Strict physical distancing, never within six feet of an NBA participant
- Temperature/symptom checks
- Housekeeping staff will never be in the room at the same time as NBA participants