It has been over two months since the NBA suspended operations amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. For a majority of that hiatus, commissioner Adam Silver and league executives have been looking into ways for the 2019-20 season to safely continue.
The hope has always been to crown a 2020 NBA champion. While a number of ideas were thrown out, perhaps the one that gained the most traction was a bubble concept.
This meant that players, coaches, and staff — who would be tested for the virus upon arrival — would gather at a singular or perhaps multiple locations, and play out the rest of the season in a quarantine.
Now that the NBA has had some time to dive into the logistics of this, it would appear that Disney World in Orlando, Fla., has emerged as the frontrunner for a return-to-play site, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic:
The NBA has Orlando/Disney World as a clear frontrunner for return-to-play site for resuming 2019-20 season, sources tell me and @sam_amick. Orlando has gained significant seriousness among other cites such as Las Vegas.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 20, 2020
Disney World has always made the most sense as a bubble. It’s naturally isolated from the rest of Orlando, has its own pre-existing infrastructure and hotels, and players could have places to go within the area without feeling trapped in their hotel rooms. That’s something that Silver has been stressing throughout this whole process.
The next hurdle in continuing the 2019-20 regular season is testing, as all personnel will need to be tested regularly to help prevent an outbreak. If a player becomes positive and is not tested and quarantined immediately, that could cause a ripple effect where a massive number of players and coaches also contract the virus.
The NBA has maintained that they want a solution that will not shut the league down should one or two people test positive. Once players are in the bubble, they presumably will not be allowed to leave the grounds until they are eliminated from the playoffs.
Perhaps the final hurdle in this plan will be Disney World itself. The Orlando area and much of Florida have relaxed coronavirus measures much quicker than California, and Disney World has already begun taking reservations for patrons beginning July 1. If they do re-open, they’ll need to figure out a way to keep the players separated from the patrons at all costs.
With time running out for the league to finalize their decisions, it’s a positive development that a frontrunner is being determined. Silver put himself and the league on a two-to-four week timeline to make a decision, and that second week is quickly approaching.