The NBA is in talks with The Walt Disney Company about a single-location scenario for a resumption of play in Central Florida in late July, the clearest sign yet that the league believes the season can continue amid the pandemic of the coronavirus.
The National Basketball Players Association is also part of the talks with Disney. Games would be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a huge campus located on the Disney grounds near Orlando.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the talks were still “exploratory” and that the site would be used not only for games, but for practices and housing as well.
“Our priority remains the health and safety of all concerned, 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,” said Bass.
The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is a 255-acre campus with multiple arenas that could host games at the same time and where, in recent years, the Jr. NBA World Championship took place. ESPN is primarily owned by Disney, one of the NBA’s broadcast partners.
Space won’t be a problem, even though Major League Soccer – which is also in talks to resume the season at Disney – is there at the same time as the NBA. The entire Disney complex is approximately 40 square miles in size, with nearly 24,000 hotel rooms owned or operated by Disney on campus.
The NBA suspended its March 11 season and became the first of the major U.S. professional leagues to do so after it was revealed that Utah Jazz’s All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The list of NBA players known to test positive eventually grew to 10 – not all of which were identified – and Commissioner Adam Silver said last month that the actual total was even higher.
But the league has been working on numerous scenarios for returning to the game for several weeks, all with the proviso that testing would be an integral part of any resumption of the season. Teams have been allowed to welcome players to their volunteer session training facilities since May 8, and more than half of the league’s franchises have taken up that opportunity.
The next steps would likely ease restrictions on those voluntary workouts – currently no more than four players are allowed in a facility – and then a plan for when training camps could open. If the league plans to resume play at the end of July, camps may open around the beginning of that month.