A little over a week into Adam Silver’s stated two-to-four week timeline for a decision on the fate of the NBA season, Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort has emerged as the “clear frontrunner” to host the league’s return to action, sources told Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic.
Sources also told Charania and Amick that players resuming full training in mid-June and playing in mid-July is a "popular and possible scenario."
The property has been in reports as one of the league’s top two potential play site candidates, along with Las Vegas, for some time. On Wednesday, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer also reported Houston as a site the league is considering. The Athletic report confirmed that, but said “Orlando is on track to win its bid so long as final details regarding testing and hotel use are resolved.”
The particulars of what a "bubble" site would precisely look like remains to be seen. In the past, NBA players have reportedly raised concerns over intrusive surveillance measures and being separated from their families for an extended period during a global crisis.
From The Athletic report:
NBA commissioner Adam Silver informed players on a May 8 call that he hopes that the league is able to have daily testing, no stoppage of play if and when a player tests positive, and isolating anyone who does test positive in a quarantine. Silver also told the Board of Governors last week that he does not expect a “medical bubble” — but an environment in which people can re-enter and undergo retesting.
Keith Smith of Yahoo! Sports was the first to speculate about the resort’s viability as a venue back in April. That piece is worth a read for a detailed rundown of what makes Disney a desirable location for the league, but the 10,000 foot view is as follows: The resort has an abundance of housing space and basketball facilities; the resort is private property, so the integrity of a quarantined “bubble” would be easier to maintain; and Disney and the NBA have a healthy pre-existing relationship – the partnership between Disney-owned ESPN and the NBA, specifically, could help facilitate broadcasting games if and when they resume.
As a way to maybe give a sense of just how big Walt Disney World is, these two pictures may help.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) May 20, 2020
The first is a property map. You can see the Sports Complex at the bottom in the middle.
The second is a map of New York City. WDW is roughly mapped out and overlaid in blue. pic.twitter.com/fgVgVhdPD1
From The Athletic report:
The synergy between the NBA and Disney – which owns the league’s main media partner – has played a pivotal part here too. What’s more, Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger has strong relationships with Silver and National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul. Iger even attended the NBA’s remote Board of Governors meeting on April 17, when he discussed the situation with the league’s owners...
Further, Gov. Ron DeSantis publicly extended an open invitation to all professional sports leagues to attempt their resumption bids in Florida earlier in May.
“All professional sports are welcome here for practicing and for playing," DeSantis said at a news conference. "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.”
It appears the NBA is inching closer to taking the state up on its offer. The NBA suspended play on March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.