Basketball rebounds: NBA set to resume play at Disney-owned ESPN complex in Florida in July
NBA officials announced that the league was to be suspended in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic shortly after one of its players, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, tested positive for coronavirus after making light of the illness during a press conference in which he jokingly touched reporters' microphones.
Since then, several NBA stars including Kevin Durant - and most recently former pro Patrick Ewing - have been found to be carrying the virus, but despite some growing skepticism in the sporting community, the league appears to be pushing forward with plans to get its season back on the rails.Also on rt.com NBA legend Patrick Ewing in hospital after testing positive for Covid-19
"The NBA, in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association, is engaged in exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about restarting the 2019-20 NBA season in late July at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as a single site for an NBA campus for games, practices and housing," NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said on Saturday.
"Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place."
BREAKING: The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are engaged in exploratory conversations with Disney for a single-site return of NBA games in late July at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex -- for games, practices and housing.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) May 23, 2020
Hearing about an #NBA return and what it would possibly look like per source. @kron4newsTraining Camp: June 20-July 105 reg. season games: July 15-231st round: July 25-Aug 72nd round: Aug 8-21Conf Finals: Aug 22-Sept 5Finals: Sept 7-20NBA Draft: Sept 25Free Agency: Oct 1— Jason Dumas (@JDumasReports) May 22, 2020
The plan would see teams congregate in the area of the complex, which is near Orlando, with each game taking place inside the ESPN venue which boasts three arenas and multiple hotels.
As part of safety measures, teams would recall their players and place them in a mandatory two-week quarantine, before one to two weeks of light training followed by a three week training camp. If all goes well, league officials are expected to confirm by June that the season will be resumed and games are expected to begin by late July.Also on rt.com 'They should put communities first': ALL NBA teams 'obligated' to provide players' BLOOD in search for COVID-19 breakthrough in US
It is not yet clear whether the league will continue from the point from when it was suspended or if it will progress directly to the playoffs.
The finish date for the season has yet to be determined but it could lead to the NBA Finals taking place in mid December with the annual NBA Draft and free agency period taking place in the following weeks.
Florida has proven to be one of the states most willing to house professional sports. It was announced last month that WWE had been deemed an 'essential business' to allow it operate in the state with a skeleton crew, while the UFC held three separate events in the city of Jacksonville earlier this month.