June 15, 2020 - The NBA sent an internal memo to its teams on Friday with a schedule to restart the season, including mandatory testing and individual workouts in July, according to the Associated Press. During a two-hour conference call on Friday night, some players raised concerns about returning amid increasing coronavirus cases and national racial injustice protests, according to The Washington Post.
“I’m just connected to so many people that it’s like, how can I be consumed with a basketball game? Look at the lengths that we’re going to play a basketball game when there’s something so much greater going on,” Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard told GQ in an interview published Friday. “This is something that affects me personally. Something so much more meaningful going on that really needs us. So, I mean it’s a battle every day for me.”
As part of the new schedule, players will restart training at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, on July 9. Players will undergo health and safety screenings and train in Florida until the end of the month. Around July 21, teams will start three inter-squad scrimmages.
Games will resume at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at the beginning of August, and playoffs will start in mid-August. At the end of August, a limited number of family members and guests will be able to travel to the Disney campus and stay on Disney property. Conference semi-finals will take place at the beginning of September, with conference finals in mid-to-late September and the NBA finals in early October.
According to the plan, 22 teams will travel to the Disney campus, the AP reported on June 4. The season is already over for eight teams — Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Golden State, Minnesota and New York — and they will not go to Orlando. For now, those teams can hold voluntary workouts at their facilities.
Workers on the Disney campus will be required to wear masks, follow physical distancing guidelines, assess any symptoms and do daily temperature checks, the AP reported, adding that the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are continuing to discuss safety protocols.
Public health officials are keeping an eye on the coronavirus numbers in Orlando as well. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the restart plan “creative.”
“I actually have looked at that plan, and it is really quite creative,” he told Stadium in an interview. “What they are really trying to do — and I think they very well might be quite successful with it — is to create a situation where it is as safe as it possibly could be for the players by creating this bubble.”
Testing everyone and starting with a “baseline” of negative COVID-19 tests could be a model for other sports, he said.
“Could you extrapolate that to some of the other sports? Possibly,” Fauci said. “I think they should look at that model, see how it works and then take it from there.”