The NBA has announced the 2019/20 season will restart on July 30, with stringent health and safety protocols in place amid the coronavirus pandemic, at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
The Utah Jazz will face the New Orleans Pelicans in the opening game at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers against the LA Clippers on the same day.
Under the finalised plan, 22 of the NBA’s 30 teams will play eight seeding games to determine a 16-team play-off field that would follow the traditional post-season format and crown a champion no later than October 13.
The season has been in hiatus since March 11, after All-Star center Rudy Gobert of Utah Jazz was the first player to test positive for the coronavirus, but teams are set to arrive at the Disney campus for training by July 11.
Amid a current spike in coronavirus cases in Florida, NBA commissioner Adam Silver warned the league’s “bubble” in central Florida cannot be made totally safe from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We know that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future, and we are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus. No options are risk-free right now.
“My ultimate conclusion is that we can’t outrun the virus, and that this is what we’re going to be living with for the foreseeable future – which is why we designed the campus the way we did. And so it’s a closed network; and while it’s not impermeable, we are in essence protected from cases around us. At least, that’s the model.
“So, for those reasons, we’re still very comfortable being in Orlando.”
Silver was not ready to reveal the NBA’s intentions should a COVID-19 outbreak occur among players.
“I think we want to get down on the ground and start to see how our testing’s working and how the protocols are working and then we’ll make decisions as we go,” he said.
The league also added “the goal of the season restart” is to “find tangible and sustainable ways to address racial inequality across the country.”
“We have worked together with the Players Association to establish a restart plan that prioritizes health and safety, preserves competitive fairness and provides a platform to address social justice issues,” Silver said.
“We are grateful to our longtime collaborator Disney for its role in playing host and making this return to play possible, and we also thank the public health officials and infectious disease specialists who helped guide the creation of comprehensive medical protocols and protections.”
The NBA earlier announced 16 players had tested positive for the coronavirus across 302 tests carried out on Tuesday.