NBA Expecting Return in June, but Questions Remain

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told President Trump the NBA will be back, but when...and how?
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told President Trump the NBA will be back, but when...and how? Photo by Jeff Balke
The NBA is expecting to give teams guidelines on a return to basketball beginning on or around June 1. The guidelines would then open the door for more players to begin workouts in preparation of a resumption of the season. Many questions loom over the discussions and nothing is final, but there are a least a few things that appear to be likely.

There will be a "preseason" followed by a brief regular season and then the playoffs. The league expects to do two to three weeks of training camp followed by a very abbreviated end to the regular season before starting the playoffs before the end of July. Playoffs would likely be a bit shorter as well and the season could wrap up by the end of August allowing most players a couple months rest before the beginning of the 2020-21 season.

But, how they get to that conclusion is still a mystery with a number of questions.

Where will games be held?

The persistent reports are that the league would prefer a single location or a pair of locations to minimize travel. Commissioner Adam Silver has referred to it as a "campus" environment, avoiding the term "bubble." A recent report in the Houston Chronicle suggested Houston was on the list of possible sites for games, but we may not have the capacity needed. Most commonly, Las Vegas and Orlando have been cited as potential locations.

Will it truly be a quarantined environment?

That depends on who you talk to. Jared Dudley of the LA Lakers told ESPN recently that players would be able to leave the quarantine bubble, saying it seemed unlikely young players would remain stuck in their rooms for several months. Whether or not this is good for anyone is up for debate, but he probably isn't wrong, making logistics all the more complicated.

What will the playoff format be?

Numerous possibilities have been floated from a smaller playoff format to play-in games to even some single elimination games to allow more teams to participate. Nothing, however, is set in stone yet.

Will all teams return regardless of record?

That decision hasn't been made yet, but it wouldn't make much sense for teams like Cleveland or Golden State (yes, the Warriors) to return for a few games if they weren't going to make the playoffs anyway. The league would be smart to limit the number of teams if for no other reason than cutting down on the number of people they need to monitor.

Will that be enough turn around time for next season?

At this point, it feels like a foregone conclusion the 2020-21 season will be delayed and start late, maybe even with a shorter overall season. Normally, training camps open in late September and the first games of the season are the last week of October. That could be pushed a month or more to give teams time to rest and re-establish rosters.

What about the draft and free agency?

Speaking of rosters, the league hasn't had a draft lottery yet and we are inching closer to when the draft would be and when free agency would open, none of which can really happen until after the season ends. That is yet another reason the next year's slate of games would have to be pushed.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke