The NBA is in talks with The Walt Disney Company on a single site scenario for a resumption of play in central Florida in late July, the clearest sign to date that the league believes the season may continue in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Basketball Players Association is also part of discussions with Disney. The matches would be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a huge campus on the Disney property near Orlando.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the conversations were still “exploratory” and that the site would be used not only for games but also for training and accommodation.
“Our priority remains the health and safety of everyone 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.” said Bass.
The ESPN Wide World of Sports complex is a 255 acre campus with several arenas that can host games simultaneously and has hosted, among other things, the NBA World Junior Championship in recent years. ESPN is primarily owned by Disney, one of the NBA broadcast partners.
Players are back in training facilities
Space won’t be a problem, even if Major League Soccer – which is also in talks to resume its season at Disney – is there with the NBA. The entire Disney complex is approximately 40 square miles, with nearly 24,000 hotel rooms owned or operated by Disney on campus.
The NBA suspended its season on March 11, becoming the first of the major American professional leagues to do so after it became known that Utah Jazz star center Rudy Gobert was positive for COVID-19. The list of NBA players known to be positive has finally grown to 10 – not all of whom have been identified – and commissioner Adam Silver said last month that the actual total was even higher.
But the league has been working on countless return-to-play scenarios for several weeks, while warning that testing will be an integral part of any resumption of the season. Teams have been allowed to host players in their training facilities for voluntary sessions since May 8, and more than half of the franchises in the league have taken advantage of this opportunity.
The next steps would likely include easing restrictions on this voluntary training – no more than four players are currently allowed inside a facility at a time – and then a plan for when training camps could open. If the league plans to resume play in late July, the camps could potentially open early this month.