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NBA engaging in ‘exploratory conversations’ toward late July restart in Orlando

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NBA Experience Grand Opening Photo by Gary Bassing/NBAE via Getty Images

Discussions about the NBA’s path to restarting the 2019-20 season continue, including proposals and ideas about where and when the action might resume. On Saturday, the NBA weighed in for the first time in an official capacity with regard to a specific venue. In communicating with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, NBA Executive Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass shed on-the-record light on the widely discussed location of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

“The NBA, in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association, is engaging in exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about restarting the 2019-20 NBA season in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as a single site for an NBA campus for games, practices and housing,” Bass said in a now-official league statement. “Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all 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.”

It is crucial to note that the use of “exploratory conversations” does not slam the door shut on other ideas. With that said, it is certainly noteworthy that the NBA would provide insight in this manner and, given the proposed timeline of late July, there would be some level of urgency needed to get things moving.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday that “teams are asking the NBA whether players can bypass returns to those cities and report directly to the league’s proposed campus environment for the start of training camps.” In addition, conversations are ongoing with regard to how players can and should return to team structures, with the need to ramp up activity — all the way up to a “training camp” setting prior to actual game play — in the near future if the league would sanction games in late July.

As for the Atlanta Hawks, uncertainty remains as to whether teams operating outside of playoff contention would be involved in any capacity. Many references have been made to a 70-game regular season threshold with regard to the fulfillment of local television contracts, leaving some to speculate that all 30 teams could take the floor again, even if only for a few contests. On the flip side, there could be incentive to limit COVID-19 exposure in the league’s “bubble” setting and, despite the significant money on the line, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on a survey issued to the league’s general managers weighing formats that both would and would not include teams, like the Hawks, that are lottery-bound.

At this stage, many questions need to be answered before teams return to the floor, even in a practice-level environment. Still, these comments from the league represent a significant landmark in the journey.

Stay tuned.