Spencer Dinwiddie, the Brooklyn Nets guard who has become one of the most vocal players in the league during the COVID-19 pandemic, tweeted a date — July 15 — that’s been bandied about privately as a possible return date for the NBA.
For weeks, the mid-July return has been buzzed about in league circles, with optimism about a return to play transforming into concrete expectations. Dinwiddie’s tweet came a day after Lakers forward Jared Dudley told reporters that he expected the NBA to expand workout capabilities in the first week of June. Others in the league viewed this as a pathway to training camps opening before the end of the month.
As dates start to trickle out about the NBA’s return — the league has been shut down since March 11 — it’s important to remember that even the best NBA plans still have their foundations built on uncertain ground.
According to people with knowledge of the NBA’s thinking, there is plenty of confidence that the league will return to play to finish the 2019-20 season. The mechanics of that return — the when, the where and the how — are still fluid.
One person with knowledge of the situation told The Times that a mid-July timetable for a return might be too early, though things could certainly change as new and better information about the pandemic becomes available. More concrete information is expected around June 1.
Any return would be contingent on extensive testing for players, teams officials and anyone else involved in the league's resumption. The NBA would need to develop protocols for testing and how to deal with players testing positive while allowing for the continuation of games if that happens.
The most likely scenario has teams returning this summer in Orlando, Fla., using the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex as a base for games with the resort’s hotels housing teams, league officials, broadcasters and media in a soft bubble — one where people would be strongly encouraged to remain on campus instead of being forced to quarantine.
Calls to spokespeople for Walt Disney World were not returned. The sports complex includes an arena, a fieldhouse and an athletic center, each configured for six basketball courts.
A single location housing the NBA might be the preferred route for some, though there are other options under consideration. A secondary location (or more) could still happen, with Las Vegas, using a plan from MGM Resorts, an NBA partner, as a possibility. Houston is also reportedly being considered as a hosting site.
Staples Center expressed interest in hosting the NBA’s return, with L.A. Live acting as the hub with hotel and dining options and direct access to the arena, but serious conversations never materialized, according to people familiar with the situation.
Thursday on CNBC, Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry told “Halftime Report” that he expects games to resume in the next six to eight weeks at one or two sites.
“We’re getting a lot closer,” Lasry said. “I think just to make it easier for everybody, it will probably be two sites. Maybe have the West on the Vegas side, and the East on the Orlando side."
The league has still not settled on who will be coming back. Earlier this month, the NBA had hopes of salvaging as much of its regular season as possible, with teams returning to play whether or not they were in the playoff picture.
The NBA has continued evaluating other scenarios — including onein which only playoff teams would return and another with some sort of play-in tournament for teams in the hunt for the final postseason spots.
As Dudley told reporters Wednesday, seven-game playoff series in each round is the current plan for the league, but that, like almost everything else the NBA has put together, is subject to change.
Staff writer Arash Markazi contributed to this report.