What NBA Return Would Look Like

May 15, 2020, 1:03 PM | Updated: 1:04 pm

Joe Ingles #2 of the Utah Jazz puts up a shot against Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets in the...

Joe Ingles #2 of the Utah Jazz puts up a shot against Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter at the Pepsi Center on January 30, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA continues to explore options to return to action. Over the last several weeks, momentum seems to be building towards the league’s return. Commissioner Adam Silver hosted a phone call with the league’s players answering questions about the league’s future options. Meanwhile, the NBA Players Associaton polled its players on whether they would favor a return to action. Finally, a grouping of the NBA’s biggest stars formed a committee to jumpstart the 2019-20 season.  But with the renewed momentum, do we know what an NBA return would look like?

Piecing together the information that has been reported, we can piece together a relatively comprehensive picture of how the new-look NBA might function.

One Or Two Locations

The most likely scenario if the NBA returns is that games would be held in either one or two locations. The two locations most commonly suggested are Las Vegas and the Disney World Resorts in Orlando. Both locations have reportedly offered to host the league’s game if it can return.

There are advantages to holding all of the games in one location. First, the league could keep a closer eye on all of the teams in a single location. Both Vegas and Disney World could house the entire league, allowing one universal approach to keep the league isolated from outside contamination.

Furthermore, Disney could block off a large block of private property, reducing the threat of outside contamination even further. However, if there is an outbreak within the NBA, having every team gathered in one location could accelerate the spread of the virus. Silver described the scenario as a “campus environment” according to league sources.

If the league were to split locations, say the Western Conference meets in Vegas, while the East plays in Orlando, internal contamination wouldn’t infect the whole league. Even if a group of teams in Vegas tested positive for the virus, the Eastern Conference games could proceed as scheduled.

Additionally, two locations would double the number of broadcast sites for games. Both Vegas and Orlando are equipped with two broadcast-ready arenas for the games. If the NBA were to bring all 30 teams back to finish the regular season, attempting to televise games for every franchise between two arenas could prove difficult.

Expanding that to four broadcast locations, with teams playing every other night would radically reduce the playing time crunch.


Exactly how often, and how quickly the NBA can test its players remains a significant question. As sports around the country explore opportunities to return, many leagues face the same quandary.

On Thursdays, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred laid out his league’s plan to return to action. Manfred’s answers could help shed on a light on what an NBA return would look like.

Baseball would test its players using a PCR [polymerase chain reaction] test multiple times per week. A lab could offer a 24-hour turnaround on those tests to determine whether a player had the virus. Additionally, the league would supplement the PCR tests with antibody tests to see which players may have had the virus and recovered.

Furthermore, each team would be required to check the temperature and symptoms of every player on the roster. If a player tested positive for the virus, he would go into isolation. That player wouldn’t be able to return to action until he had two negative tests within 24 hours. Ideally, one positive test wouldn’t force the league to cancel an entire game.

Some NBA teams can already test for COVID-19 as players return the basketball court. The Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers can test asymptomatic players according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Previously, the NBA asked it’s teams not to use the limited number of tests as front line workers lacked access to adequate testing.

It is expected that 22 of the league’s 30 NBA teams will have practice facilities open to players as soon as next week.

Regular Season Or Playoffs

One major issue facing the NBA is where to restart the NBA season. When the league was suspended, roughly 18 games were remaining for each team. With the amount of time missed, it seems unlikely that the league could make up the entirety of the suspended schedule. Does it make sense to bring all 30 teams back dramatically increasing the odds of contamination? Or, could the league restart by skipping the regular season and opening play in the postseason?

Silver hopes to complete as much of the regular season and playoffs as possible according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor.

However, if required, the NBA could not only skip the regular season, it could shorten its postseason series’ to crown a champion. The league may have to weigh whether it’s advantageous to play more regular-season games for all 30 teams, teamed with a shortened postseason. Or, if it makes sense to play more postseason games, fulfilling their national broadcasts at the expense of the regular season.

The league faces serious financial dilemmas in either scenario. The safety of the players, while recouping as much money as possible will play a major role in the league’s decision.

The Timeframe

Though Silver won’t commit to a drop-dead date for the league to return, a general picture is becoming clearer. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that a decision on the NBA’s return could come in the next 2-4 weeks. The commissioner set the timeframe in a call with the league’s Board of Governors.

If the league’s players and owners could agree to resume practice by mid-June, the league could be back in action by mid-July. The league has discussed a 25-day return to action plan mixing conditioning and conditioning and a more traditional training camp.

The first 11 days of the camp would be used to get players back into game shape. Meanwhile, the final two weeks of camp would be used to get players back in rhythm.

What An NBA Return Would Look Like

The NBA faces an incredible number of hurdles before it returns. Foremost, the safety of its players will weigh heavily on the league’s odds of returning. Even as the tides seem to be turning towards, return, will every NBA player feel comfortable retaking the floor?

Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles told 1280 The Zone that with a pregnant wife at home, he may not feel comfortable rejoining his team.

Ingles won’t be the only athlete cautious of a return. Does the league feel confident it can convince its players it’s safe jump-start the season?

And what about the unknowns? The league can prepare answers for the problems it suspects it will run into. It can’t, however, prepare for questions it doesn’t yet know to ask. With rapidly changing information surrounding the virus, can the league competently predict the actions of the outbreak?

The NBA is doing it’s due diligence to return, and at this point, finish the 2019-20 season seems likely. However, with the number of players involved, the amount of testing required, and the potential for unknowns, can Silver truly feel confident in what an NBA return would look like?


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What NBA Return Would Look Like