Bulls

NBA return timeline clouded as Toronto cancels events through June amid COVID-19

usatsi_14175862.jpg
USA Today

NBA return timeline clouded as Toronto cancels events through June amid COVID-19

Tuesday afternoon, Toronto Mayor John Torey announced the cancellation of permits for all major events through June 30. That includes festivals, parades and other large-scale, city-led events.

The question for fans combing through news clippings, hoping for the return of live sports: How does this affect the timeline for the potential resumption of the NBA, NHL and MLB seasons?

The knee-jerk reaction is to call it a major blow. That June 30 date comes after 40 previously-scheduled Blue Jays home games and would take us well beyond the previsouly-scheduled conclusion of the NBA and NHL playoffs (in which the Raptors and Maple Leafs were both locks). It's the longest a major North American city has committed to drastic, concrete social distancing guidelines — a barometer of just how murky the response, relief and recovery process from the COVID-19 pandemic still is.

RELATED: United Center to act as storage facility for Chicago food bank

Important context: As of this writing, this ordinance does not directly bar the NBA, NHL or MLB from resuming play through that date. David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reported as much shortly after the news broke:

Still, no major sports league should or will return before every conceivable safety clearance is met. Just because this decision doesn't directly prohibit leagues from re-assembling teams, doesn't mean it won't impact their decision-making. It will. 

As will current stay-at-home edicts in the United States. Illinois' — issued by Governor J.B. Pritzker — runs through April 30. On Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order in his state that runs through June 10.

For what it's worth, the NBA appears motivated to somehow resolve its season at some point in the future. Recently, the idea of clustering teams and players into central, quarantined environments has been floated by prominent national reporters. Last week, Jabari Young of CNBC cited league sources in reporting that Las Vegas has been discussed as an option for such a concept.

But the logistical and emotional hurdles involved in any hypothetical return are immense. Look at the challenges Asian basketball leagues have encountered as evidence. At this point, it's impossible to say anything with even a modicum of certainty except that there is still a long, winding road ahead. 

Actions like those the city of Toronto has taken underscore that point.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

How to watch ESPN's 'The Last Dance' documentary on Michael Jordan, 1998 Bulls

michaeljordanslide_0.png
AP

How to watch ESPN's 'The Last Dance' documentary on Michael Jordan, 1998 Bulls

Tuesday morning, ESPN announced it is moving up the release of "The Last Dance" to Sunday nights over a five-week period from April 19 to May 17.

"The Last Dance" is an upcoming 10-part documentary series that promises to tell the untold story of the 1998 Bulls.

The series was originally scheduled to debut in June, but with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing live sports around the world to a halt, an early release was too tantalizing to dismiss.

"As society navigates this time without live sports, viewers are still looking to the sports world to escape and enjoy a collective experience," a statement reads. "We’ve heard the calls from fans asking us to move up the release date for this series, and we’re happy to announce that we’ve been able to accelerate the production schedule to do just that."

We're forever grateful.

Here's the schedule breakdown, per ESPN:

Episodes will also be made available on the ESPN App, ESPN.com and ESPN on Demand immediately following each installment's debut.

ESPN also announced that each episode will be available on Netflix for viewers outside of the United States just after midnight Pacific Standard Time the night they premiere. That breaks down as follows:

So buckle up, Bulls and basketball fans around the world. This should be a wild, can't-miss ride.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.