A lot of NBA news has surfaced just ahead of the May 1 target date for the league to begin making decisions about the 2019-20 season.
The biggest item came from ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, who reported that the league has advised teams not to have asymptomatic players and staff tested for COVID-19.
Bontemps reported that the league told teams in a memo that “for the time being, it is not appropriate in the current public health environment to regularly test all players and staff for the coronavirus.”
Access to tests remains a vexing issue for the NBA while the United States continues to deal with an overall shortage of kits. Bontemps’ colleague Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the league estimates it will need 15,000 test kits if it were to return to action.
The league’s guidance on not testing possible asymptomatic carriers is notable because people who don’t display COVID-19 symptoms can still spread the disease.
Wojnarowski’s reporting also included speculation on when the 2020-21 season might begin. Sources told him that there is “support” for starting next season in December and ending it in late summer 2021. A change to a Christmas opening had support long before the coronavirus disrupted this season, notably from Hawks CEO Steve Koonin, but the current crisis gives the league cover to drastically alter its calendar going forward and keep itself from competing with the NFL for attention during the season’s early months.
With the league not close to playing games again, concerns about when the NBA Draft will take place are growing. Sources told Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that they expect the draft to be moved from June 25 to August or September, to align with a possible summer conclusion to the season.
Whether the season is played to a conclusion will depend on whether the league believes it will be safe to resume play in the near future. There’s also the logistical hurdle of finding neutral-site facilities to replace teams’ arenas. Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported that Walt Disney World outside Orlando is a candidate to become a “bubble” site where the entire league can be housed. Las Vegas remains under consideration as well.
All of this will need to be decided soon, perhaps beginning Friday, if the NBA wants to keep playing this season.