(Photo from ESPN.com)
The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is humongous. It spans 220 acres and it’s situated inside the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Our family had the chance to spend New Year’s 2015 inside Disneyworld and the footprint is colossal. The sports grounds include 12 volleyball courts, 10 tennis courts, and a 7,500-seater baseball stadium.
The ESPN Complex is also home to six college-size basketball courts — the venue where NBA players will play the remainder of the season.
July 31 is the target date. Players, coaches and staff will be invited to the facility by mid-July so they can practice. A limited number of family members are expected to join. They, too, are to be subjected to the same rigorous COVID-19 testing protocols.
Of the NBA’s 30 teams, not all are expected to return. Those in the bottom cellar won’t be asked to come back. The Warriors, for example, carry a 15-50 win-loss record. No need for them to return. Only those teams that have the chance to make it to the playoffs will be asked to come back.
Twenty, maybe 22, teams will return. And while the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) and the Los Angeles Lakers (49-14; leading in the West) are guaranteed playoff spots, there are a number of teams that are still vying for the remaining slots. Sixteen teams will comprise the playoffs.
All this is not final yet. The NBA’s Board of Governors, who talked last Friday, appear to be excited with the return. They will meet again on June 4 and a three-fourths majority of owners are needed to give the go-signal.
“We are lining up behind (Silver) on this,” an owner confided to ESPN. “The posturing will end. Nothing is going to be perfect for everyone.”
Silver, as you know, is Mr. Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner. He is the man at the center, juggling the demands of players who want to return and the concerns of many who are scared.
There will be a “series of bad options,” Silver says, of the NBA restart. He added that no decision that league makes will be risk-free.
What if Kawhi gets the virus from a Walt Disney Hotel staff member? Or Giannis gets infected by one of his assistants? Or Kyle Lowry’s family member gets sick? Simbako. But the risks are high. The hundreds of players, referees, arena staff, mediamen and family members will live inside a quarantined bubble. Like a cruise ship, when one gets infected, it easily spreads; the same thing can happen.
The NBA is preparing for this eventuality. Even if one or two or a few get infected, the plan is to isolate these cases and continue. Easier said than implemented.
Money is a huge factor in the equation. Although millions of dollars will be lost because of the absence of fans, the TV deals are still big bucks. The NBA’s national TV package hovers around $2.7 billion per year.
The man most excited for the NBA rebound? LBJ. After watching The Last Dance, the 35-year-old LeBron is in probably his last best chance to wear NBA ring No. 4.