The NBA appears to be on the doorstep of a concrete plan to relaunch. Could the Bulls relaunch with it?
Saturday, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported the league has begun "exploratory discussions" with the Walt Disney Corporation about relaunching its season at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, starting in late July:
The NBA has entered into exploratory conversations with the Walt Disney Corporation about restarting the remainder of its season at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida in late July, NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said Saturday.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 23, 2020
The NBA later released a statement from league spokesman Mike Bass, which said the 220-acre complex would serve as a single site for games, practices and housing.
The following is a statement from NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass: pic.twitter.com/8gfK5iVXs8— NBA (@NBA) May 23, 2020
What this evolving restart scheme means for the Bulls remains to be seen; much will depend on the schedule format with which the league decides to push forward. Also on Saturday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the NBA distributed a survey to GMs enumerating different formats the season could resume under — possibly a window into the league's thinking.
Those options range from skipping straight to a 16-team playoff, to a "Playoffs Plus" format that could involve anywhere from 18-24 teams, to resuming the regular season with all 30 teams. Both the "Playoffs Plus" format and the regular season scenario could reportedly involve a play-in tournament or group stage postseason round. Other questions in the survey included how late executives are willing to see the 2019-20 season run (with answers from Labor Day to Nov. 1) and how many regular season games should be played (72 or 76).
A 30-team regular season restart would incorporate the Bulls, as could a 24-team "Playoffs Plus" slate (at 22-43, the Bulls are currently paused with the 24th best record in the NBA).
But ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday that there is something of a prevailing sentiment to not bring every team back when the season kicks back up:
Several members of the league's board of governors believe that the NBA's preference isn't to bring every team to resume the season, but that remains undecided. First, the fewer teams, the fewer people at risk to spread or contract COVID-19. Also, with little chance to play more than five to seven regular season games, a month of preparation seems like an excessive investment for teams at the bottom of the standings.
Indeed, Wojnarowski also reported that the NBA is discussing a multi-step training camp program, that would break down as such:
- Two-week callback of players into their respective markets, with designated qurantine
- One-to-two weeks of individual workouts at team facilities
- Two-to-three week format training camp
All of that work for five-to-seven games of potentially meaningless basketball does seem a tall ask — especially given the implications of expanding the bubble and further extending a season that is already running on severe delay. The finances aren't meaningless, of course, and that will be front-of-mind for the league as it undergoes the final stages of its decision-making process on the fate of the season over the final week of May.
When new guidelines are distributed "around June 1" (a date reported by Wojnarowski), hopefully they will bring more clarity.