If the NBA is able to find a safe (by relative standards) and agreeable manner in which to resume the 2019-20 season in the next two-to-four weeks, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to host.
“All professional sports are welcome here for practicing and for playing," DeSantis said at a news conference on Tuesday, via WPTV 5. "What I would tell commissioners of leagues is, if you have a team in an area where they just won't let them operate, we'll find a place for you here in the state of Florida.
“Now, we’re not going to necessarily have fans,” DeSantis continued. Still: “We want to have you here. We want to have the basketball practicing again. We would love to have the Major League Baseball.”
DeSantis is now the second governor to announce their state is open to hosting professional sports teams and leagues, along with Doug Ducey of Arizona. Florida became one of the first states to begin the reopening process by allowing beaches, restaurants, libraries and museums to reopen on a limited basis starting May 4, with salons and barber shops close behind on May 8.
In April, Florida classified pro sports as “essential services,” an early marker of DeSantis' willingness to play an active role in the resumption of live sports.
The NBA was making headlines in Florida before DeSantis’ invitation, though. Multiple outlets have reported that the Walt Disney World Resort property in Orlando is on the league’s short list of “bubble” options to quarantine its season upon resumption — in no small part due to the resort’s ample housing options, basketball-friendly facilities, and the pre-existing relationship between the NBA and Disney.
In fact, when Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported Walt Disney World Resort as a site being discussed by the league, he said that, “Disney is believed to have already offered up its property as the NBA sees fit.”
Two Florida teams — the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic — have also been permitted to both reopen their practice facilities on a severely limited basis, and test asymptomatic players and staff — the latter a sticking point for those hesitant to hoard test kits with healthcare works and citizens in need.
Per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Heat unshuttered their facility, and 12 players have already taken advantage. As of this writing, the Magic have yet to publicly indicate exactly when they might open their facilities.
Editor's note: On Thursday, May 14, the Magic announced the reopening of their practice facility for individual, voluntary, socially distanced workouts.
Still, optimism appears to be burbling that a resumption attempt could be possible, albeit not under ideal circumstances. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that one of the NBA’s goals is to prepare teams and players for a reality where, once play resumes, one positive coronavirus test wouldn't completely shut the league down again. That feels a slippery slope and a massive risk to athletes and their families, but in any pre-vaccine resumption attempt, infection will be an ever-present risk.
What’s more, with various states’ shelter-in-place guidelines in different stages, even the league’s most optimistic projections have just 22 of 30 practice facilities opening by May 18. None are currently allowing group activities. Now over two months removed from the last NBA game played, the process of working players back into game-ready shape will be an arduous process — and even that won’t begin in uniform fashion for some time.
Add that to concerns over the optics of obtaining and deploying the tests necessary to maintain its quarantine “bubble,” the looming financial ramifications of a condensed or cancelled season, and more, and it’s clear that — even at this stage — projecting if or when a return might occur is mostly conjecture.
But Florida is cementing its candidacy for the one-day center of the NBA universe in the meantime.