When Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the NBA acted decisively. It canceled that night’s Jazz-Thunder game and shortly thereafter suspended the entire season. That was good! Now the league is coming back. That’s not good!
The sad truth is that the U.S. has not instituted the kinds of policies – mandatory masks, ample assistance to people unable to work, a willingness to listen to public health experts over economic alarmists — that have allowed other countries to resume professional sports.
FC Dallas bowed out of the MLS is Back tournament after ten players and one staff member tested positive. The Miami Marlins had an outbreak just a few days into the season, but they played anyways, forcing a domino effect of postponements that threaten the remainder of baseball’s severely shortened season.
Now, it’s the NBA’s turn to resume play, with the allure of playoff TV dollars simply too much for owners and players to resist. The allure of live sports will also be a lot to resist for basketball fans starved for something to watch since the end of The Last Dance.
Here’s what you need to know about the NBA restart.
Who is playing?
The 22 NBA teams who would be in the playoffs or are within six games of the playoffs if they started today have been living, practicing, and scrimmaging in “the bubble” since July 9. It’s better known as the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
When does the regular season resume?
The first game of the restart will feature, appropriately, the Jazz taking on the Pelicans at 6:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 30. It’s the first game of a doubleheader, with the Clippers and Lakers following at 9:00. After this first night, four to seven games will be played every day through August 14, the final day of the regular season. You can see the complete schedule on the league’s official website.
Are the games being broadcast?
No fans are allowed into the bubble, so you bet you’ll be able to watch these games on TV.
Like a normal NBA season, broadcast rights are split between TNT (which will carry both opening night games), ABC, ESPN, NBA TV, and regional sports networks that have agreements with individual teams. NBA League Pass, the league’s digital offering, will allow fans to watch live games that aren’t nationally broadcast or subject to a local blackout.
What about the playoffs?
August 15 and 16 will feature play-in games if the ninth-seeded team in a conference is four or fewer games behind the eighth-seeded team. Essentially, in a close playoff race, the former will have an opportunity to make up games against the latter for the right to be the eighth and final team to make the playoffs in their conference.
The playoffs will begin on August 17 unless there are no play-in games, in which case they might be moved up. The conference semifinals are scheduled to start on August 31, the conference finals on September 15, and the NBA Finals on September 30, with October 13 as the last possible day a Finals game might be played.
Are they going to finish the season?
“Maybe” is the best answer anyone can give, but the aforementioned struggles of other American leagues — which aren’t even playing all of their games in Florida, where cases are spiking — don’t inspire a ton of confidence. The virtue of the bubble is that external sources of COVID-19 are minimized. The drawback is that if the coronavirus does somehow makes its way into the bubble it could quickly spread from team to team, taking down the entire season.
As a fan, all you can do is enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts and hope, as we are, that the bubble holds and the league is able to finish the weirdest season in its history.