Similar to the rest of the world, the NBA (and the Miami Heat) faces an uncertain future.
Will the league resume the season? Will the season be completely lost? If the season does continue, will the NBA jump right into the playoffs? Will games be played in empty arenas? How can the league play if there’s still the chance that a player, coach or staff member can contract the coronavirus?
“It would be tough to lose any kind of season,” veteran Heat forward Udonis Haslem said on a conference call with reporters last week. “But right now there are bigger things going on than basketball. So it’s really kind of hard to focus on basketball. But just like anybody else, I’m wondering if we’re going to get back to work soon.”
These are just some of the questions surrounding the NBA after the season was suspended on March 11 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The shutdown is expected to last at least another month, with President Donald Trump extending restrictive social distancing guidelines Sunday through April 30.
In reality, though, the league shutdown will likely last even longer than that, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended earlier this month that “organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States” until the week of May 11.
NBA owners and executives are preparing for the possibility of mid-to-late June as a best-case scenario for the league’s return, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Under that timetable, the season could extend into August or early September.
In an interview published last week by Dallas television station WFAA, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban set the over-under for a restart at June 1 and added that “I’m taking the under.”
The Chinese Basketball Association’s struggles to restart the season foreshadows how challenging resuming play for the NBA could be when the spread of the coronavirus slows enough to consider such action. The CBA is months ahead of the United States, with the outbreak shutting down the Chinese league in January.
The CBA season was set to resume the first week of April, then it was moved to April 15. Now, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the restart has been delayed again to late April or early May, which extends the stoppage to more than three months.
Meanwhile, basketball leagues in Japan, Russia and South Korea have completely canceled their seasons.
According to ESPN, the CBA is considering “clustering teams in one or two cities and playing one another in a round-robin format in empty arenas over several weeks” when the season resumes to create a bubble that keeps the league away from the coronavirus.
“Teams would live and play in a constantly monitored environment, with players’ temperatures checked several times a day,” Windhorst wrote.
If this plan works for the CBA, can the NBA use a similar strategy?
According to ESPN, ideas that have been discussed by NBA players and executives include using a casino property in Las Vegas, one that’s big enough to host everything in a single location. Another suggestion is to play in the Bahamas, where a resort like Atlantis had courts constructed in ballrooms.
Even if the NBA can continue the season in the coming months, there are still plenty of unknowns surrounding the league.
“I think at first, it sounded like a crazy idea,” Haslem said of playing games in empty arenas. “But I think all players will probably rethink the way they felt about it when they initially heard the idea of it.”
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