The 2019-20 NBA season stagnates into a second month of hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions, league officials are scrambling to find options allowing players and games to move forward. Today Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN illuminated many of the contingencies the league has toyed with, highlighting the difficulty of settling on any, given competing needs and lack of consensus.
In the article, Wojnarowski relates the saga surrounding the recent league proposition to re-open practice facilities in NBA cities where stay-at-home orders have been lifted. He suggests that part of the impetus for the move came from the National Basketball Players Association, who feared that players might make a clandestine move towards less-secure facilities in opening states.
With facilities closed and access to almost anything but private home gymnasiums forbidden, the NBPA shared with league officials how eager players are to have access to team buildings again. There were fears of player exoduses to unauthorized gymnasiums, as states such as Georgia and Florida reopen.
The league set a target date of May 1 to begin the transition, but a firestorm arose:
Within a few hours, ESPN reported the news. Almost immediately, the league office felt blowback from teams. General managers spent Saturday and Sunday on the phone with each other and the league, trying to understand the purpose, the timing, the safety issues — as well as alternatives for teams outside of those selected markets.
By Monday, following further conversations with teams, the NBA had pushed the date to May 8 and furnished teams with a 16-page memo on procedures required to bring back players into facilities.
Wojnarowski also covers possible plans to reconvene teams in a neutral, “bubble” location. Las Vegas has been suggested, but is reportedly a concern because veteran players don’t believe younger players will adhere to isolation protocols in that locale. Options remain, none conclusive:
For now, the NBA is still sorting out possible venues. The MGM Grand has been one of several suitors pitching a plan to host the league — and perhaps the WNBA, too — within three adjacent hotels, sources said. Some are proposing pod ideas spread across different regions. Team practice facilities have been discussed. The possibility of Disney World in Orlando, where there are basketball facilities and hotels, has gained momentum.
The impression of intermittently-orchestrated chaos permeates the piece.
As one GM said of Silver’s challenge in this climate: “It’s hard to lead by consensus in a crisis.”