Now more than three months removed from the night the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, the league has a tentative plan in place to resume play late in July at Disney World in Orlando. Over the past week, however, it’s faced opposition from many players, including Kyrie Irving, and there are still all sorts of questions left unanswered.
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
Individual workouts will be mandatory at this point, but team workouts will still be prohibited. At this point, head coaches will be allowed to participate.
- July 7-11: Teams travel to Orlando
Teams will take either a bus or chartered flight to Orlando, and once they arrive, everyone will have to stay in their rooms until they test negative for COVID-19 twice.
- July 9-29: Training camps in Orlando
At this point, teams may begin group workouts and practices. There will be regular COVID-19 testing, and players will be expected to remain on campus. If a player leaves, they will be subject to extra testing, as well as a 10-14-day quarantine period.
Starting on the 22nd, teams will begin playing scrimmages against other teams staying in their hotel. Each team will have three scrimmages.
- July 30-Aug. 14: Seeding games
Each team will play eight “regular season” seeding games. Once teams are eliminated, they will immediately depart from the bubble environment.
- 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.
Are players required to go to Orlando?
No. Between the coronavirus, concerns about the quarantine situation and the desire to continue fighting for social justice, there are all sorts of valid reasons for players to be wary about going to Orlando. Ahead of the departure date, teams are sending questionnaires to players and coaches to determine whether they are healthy enough to make the trip.
If a team decides a player is high-risk from a health perspective, they may be excused from Orlando, and will still receive their full salary. Any other player is free to opt-out of playing, and will not be in breach of their contract. However, if they voluntarily decide not to play, they will not be paid for those missed games.
Players who do not want to resume playing must notify teams by June 24, according to The Athletic.
Which Disney hotel will the players stay in?
Here’s a look at where players and staff members will reside during the season. It’s worth noting that the teams with the eight best records in the league will stay at the Gran Destino, which is one of the newest Disney World resorts. The Gran Destino opened on July 9, 2019. The Grand Floridian opened up in 1988 but has obviously seen plenty of renovations throughout the years.
Here’s a look at where teams will stay:
- Gran Destino: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers, Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat
- Grand Floridian: Thunder, 76ers, Rockets, Pacers, Mavericks, Nets, Grizzlies, Magic
- Yacht Club: Blazers, Kings, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns, Wizards
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. However, players inside the Orlando bubble will have the ability to attend games they are not playing in.
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.
Everyone traveling with each team — players, coaches and staff — will be required to acknowledge in writing that they will follow the league’s safety precautions, according to The Athletic.
What other measures is the league taking to keep players safe?
The league cannot guarantee that no one will contract COVID-19, but they are taking many precautions besides just testing players. Measures range from small changes such as asking that players refrain from licking their fingers during practices and games, to wearable biometric devices that can measure vital signs.
Furthermore, there are restrictions on who players can congregate with while they are on campus. Until teams begin scrimmaging on July 22, they are asked to only interact with players and coaches in their own hotel and to take social distancing measures into consideration when doing so. After scrimmages and games begin, players will then be free to interact with anyone on campus.
At no point, however, will players be allowed into anyone else’s hotel room. In addition, everyone will be required to wear a facemask in any common area, unless they are eating or doing physical activity.
Among the above rules, the league and the players have agreed upon certain extenuating circumstances that will allow players to leave campus, including the birth of a child, a death in the family or other medical or personal emergencies, according to ESPN.
In addition, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report that there will be an anonymous hotline to report potential violations of the protocols in Orlando.
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.
Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA protocol for a positive coronavirus test result is as follows:
- Enter immediate isolation/separate location — “Isolation Housing”
- Retest to confirm positive
- Exit isolation after consecutive negative tests and return to activities
However, the occurrence of a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the resumption of the 2019-20 season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
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 face masks/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
What amenities will players and coaches have?
The restrictions of the quarantine situation are a major issue for many players, as they’ll be isolated from their families from weeks. In order to try and keep players healthy and happy, the league is looking to making things as normal as possible.
That means there will be everything from barbers and manicurists, to a lounge for video games, to DJ sets and movie screenings. There will also be numerous options for outdoor activities, including golf and swimming. Players will also be allowed to attend other games on their off days, per The Athletic.