On Friday, the NBA finally allowed select teams to begin opening up their practice facilities once again. While most teams, including the Philadelphia 76ers, are not able to participate in the soft re-opening of training facilities yet — there’s hope that this is just the first step to getting players back in shape for a potential return this summer.
Due to the occasion, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver decided to host a conference call on Friday night to update players on the league’s status. In addition to offering the latest, Silver also fielded any questions or concerns from inquiring players.
First, it seemed like Friday’s call would be a general update and reminder on the limited practice rules as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps the NBA’s suspension in place. However, Silver and the league ended up unpacking a lot. Here’s what we know:
1. The League is Hopeful for a Normal Playoff Format
If there’s one thing the 2019-2020 NBA Postseason won’t be — it’s normal. Typically, the NBA Playoffs would already be in the second round in early May. This year, the regular season hasn’t even concluded due to the suspension.
It was assumed for a while now that if the NBA comes back this year, there’s a good chance the playoff format would be altered due to limited timing.
There were talks about potentially having single-game elimination in the early rounds and best of three series later, but the NBA doesn’t want to settle for that. Seven-game series’ are still in play as of now. Obviously, that could change later on down the line, but don’t rule it out just yet.
2. NBA Fans Have Attended Their Final Game This Season
Nobody should be surprised, but NBA fans aren’t going to have the opportunity to attend another professional basketball game for the 2019-2020 season. There’s been some speculation that might be the case for a portion of next year’s season as well, but that’s just an assumption at the moment.
For this year, however, it’s not possible to allow fans to come and enjoy a game of hoops from the stands. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Silver flat-out told players that if the season resumes, no fans are expected to be in attendance.
The situation is unfortunate for teams like the 76ers, who thrive in front of their home fans, but it’s just not worth the risk to open arena doors to the public right now.
3. Orlando and Vegas Could Share Bubble City Duties
For a while now, the NBA has been looking into the bubble city concept. One city in a neutral location to have all NBA players and their families located so all games can be played in a single area. Many cities proposed to host, but none have been considered more than Las Vegas and Orlando.
For the last few weeks, it seemed Vegas and Disney World (Orlando) were battling to become the NBA’s bubble city. Now it appears they could very well both end up hosting NBA games when the season resumes.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, Vegas could end up hosting the Western Conference teams while ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando could host for the Eastern Conference. The plan isn’t set-in-stone yet, but it seems these two locations are undoubtedly the top two contenders to become the bubble city.
4. A Three-Week Training Camp is Needed
One of the most challenging issues the NBA will have to face before returning is finding a timetable that would allow players to get back into their practice facilities and participate in group activities while getting back into game shape. Pretty much, the 2019-2020 season will require another training camp.
Three weeks is the “minimum” amount of practice time that players will need before getting back in action, according to Silver. A report on Friday indicated that teams are hopeful they can resume standard practice sessions by early/mid-June. That target date is just wishful thinking at the moment, though.
5. When’s the Deadline for a Decision?
For the last two months, we’ve heard estimated dates on when the NBA could return to action. But Adam Silver continued to reiterate the simple fact that nobody can guess when a resumed season is possible. At this point, it’s still too early to tell if a return to action is possible — but how long is the NBA willing to wait before they just scratch the 2019-2020 season without closure?
Based on Friday’s call, it sounds like a decision will have to be made by next month. Silver and the league won’t rush to make a decision by June 1st by any means. But it sounds like if there’s no clear sign of obtaining thousands of COVID-19 tests and figuring out the bubble situation before July, then we might’ve seen the last of professional basketball this season.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_