After a nearly five-month break and several failed restart attempts, the Chinese Basketball Association was finally given the green light to resume play later this month.
Government health and athletic officials gave final approval on Thursday to allow the CBA to resume play on June 20, almost five months after it suspended operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ESPN.
The league will resume play in two cities, with all games being played in empty arenas without fans present. Ten teams will compete in Qingdao, a city on the coast of the Yellow Sea in Northern China, while the other 10 will compete in Dongguan, a city on the southern coast near Hong Kong. Teams, per the report, will finish the regular season before July 4 with four to six games taking place each day.
The CBA suspended play indefinitely on Feb. 1 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The league called players back in March and had initially planned to resume play in mid-April, though that plan was later scrapped.
CBA president and former Houston Rockets star Yao Ming presented three plans to resume play early last month, which included finishing the season normally, playing a reduced schedule or jumping right the postseason. Officials, however, rejected those proposals and wanted more details on coronavirus control measures, per ESPN.
The CBA did not reveal specific details on what those measures will look like, however.
“With the approval of the sports and health department, CBA league will resume on June 20 and all preparations have entered a substantive stage,” the league said on social media, via the AFP.
“All teams and staff members [must] comply with national and local epidemic prevention and control requirements in order to ensure the safe and orderly conduct of the event.”
Though some international players may not return to China, either by choice or due to travel restrictions in place with the coronavirus pandemic, others — like Jeremy Lin, one of the biggest stars in the league — have been back in China for months now awaiting word on the season. Lin made the trek back to Beijing in March and underwent a two-week quarantine before resuming practice with the Ducks.
There were more than 6.5 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide as of Thursday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 387,000 deaths attributed to it. China had nearly 90,000 confirmed cases.
The news comes on the same day that the NBA’s Board of Governors approved commissioner Adam Silver’s plan to resume the 2019-20 season. The NBA, which suspended operations on March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic, will resume play with 22 of its 30 teams at Walt Disney World in Florida starting on July 31. The playoffs will then end no later than Oct. 12, and the NBA draft will then take place just three days later. The 2020-21 season is now tentatively scheduled to start on Dec. 1.
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