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Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder talks to forward Joe Ingles (2) and guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during Game 6 of the NBA playoffs first round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 27, 2018. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
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Jazz’s Ingles and Mitchell On What Return To NBA Must Look Like

Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder talks to forward Joe Ingles (2) and guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during Game 6 of the NBA playoffs first round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 27, 2018. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA, like most professional leagues in the United States, is trying to navigate the quickest and safest ways to restart its suspended season in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Beyond simply discussing at what point it would be safe to return to the floor, and where to play the games, the NBA must decide how much time its players will need to train before playing in a live game.

While NBA teams spend nearly a month in training camp before each season, the league likely won’t have that luxury if it returns on an abbreviated schedule this summer. While exactly how much time is needed or available is unknown, two Utah Jazz players offered their thoughts and what might be required before playing actual games.

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell joined broadcast analysts Craig Bolerjack and Matt Harpring Wednesday night on a Facebook Live stream to discuss how he’s been occupying his time since the league was suspended while issuing a desire for time to get back into playing shape.

“If we do get back to playing we’re going to need a lot of time to build our way back into it,” Mitchell said, “It’s not just the getting in shape stuff but finding that rhythm. We were really at our peak or getting towards that peak time as far as rhythm goes and now that’s got to restart.”

At the time the season was suspended, there were roughly 15 games, and 35 days left in the regular schedule for each of the league’s 30 teams. From the end of the regular season to the end of the postseason, the league traditionally plans out a playoff schedule that runs for two additional months.

Essentially, if the NBA was hoping to return this summer while playing all of its remaining games, with a full postseason schedule, the league would need three months to fulfill its workload.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that a potential drop-dead date for the NBA to complete its postseason would be Labor Day which takes place on September 7. If the league were hoping to maintain a full three-month timeframe to complete its entire schedule, the games would have to be resume by early June.

At this point, that deadline seems highly unrealistic, especially if the league hopes to grant its teams a mid-season mini-camp to return to playing shape. Jazz guard Joe Ingles voiced his desire for an opportunity to get back into shape before returning to action.

“Nothing simulates playing basketball,” Ingles said on an NBA Instagram Live video, “Regardless of if and when we get to go back and play, there’s going to have to be some component of a mini training camp or something, we can run all we want, and lift as many weights, run up the mountains here in Utah, but it’s not going to simulate the five on five of a game.”

While the NBA hasn’t ever had to work around a worldwide pandemic like the one it faces now, it has adapted to work stoppages in the past.

Most recently, the league operated on an abbreviated schedule in the 2011-12 season that was sidelined by a lockout between the NBA Players Association and the league’s owners. The league missed nearly two months between the time training camps were supposed to open and the December 8 date that a new collective bargaining agreement was signed. Preseason games began on December 16, and the regular season opened on Christmas day, just under three weeks after teams officially returned from the stoppage in play.

One solution for the NBA’s time crunch could be to trim the remaining regular-season games to just a handful of contests acting as a makeshift preseason, before jumping head-on into the postseason. The league is reportedly exploring playing its remaining schedule in Las Vegas where games could be hosted on the UNLV campus which holds neighboring arenas that currently host to the NBA’s league-wide Summer League.

As the NBA waits to return, it may be able to examine how fellow leagues around the world manage their return to play.

EuroLeague Basketball is reportedly exploring a two-group tournament to conclude its season with all of its games hosted in one city.

“If due to sanitary reasons or deadlines it is not possible to play in the 18 team arenas, we would choose to concentrate all the matches in one or two gyms in a single city,” Euroleague’s Chief Operations Officer, Eduard Scott said to Spanish newspaper, El Pais the article says.

“And, once all the teams are ready, a brief pre-season of another two weeks would start before resuming the competition. In total, it would take practically a month before being able to resume the season, which is how the NBA worked after the 2011-12 lockout. That period guarantees the health of athletes.”

If the EuroLeague shows an ability to host its games while protecting the health of its players, the NBA may have a blueprint for how to finish its season.

Until then, players and fans alike are left guessing.

“Like the fans, and like everyone else out there,” Ingles said, “We’re waiting to hear what’s next.”

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