Everything you need to know about the NBA’s impending return to play

The 2019-2020 NBA season has been on hold since March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the nearly three months since, players, organizations and fans have been left to wonder if the season will resume,

As of the past two weeks, however, it appears that a return to play is closer than ever.

According to multiple reports, the necessary steps are being taken by the league in order to resume the 2019-2020 season in hopes of crowning a champion.

With player safety and prevention of the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus being the league’s priority, the NBA has explored options that would allow games to be played in an isolated area in late July. That site has become known as the “bubble site.”

The prime location appears to be ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex, located in Orlando, Florida.

If the NBA is to return, testing for the virus will be critical, in an effort to ensure that players, coaches, and team staff are put in the best situation to remain healthy.

Shams Charania of The Athletic detailed how league-wide testing will be handled once the season resumes.

“The NBA has begun preparing its teams for an eventual league-wide coronavirus testing program in a step toward resuming the 2019-2020 season. The NBA told its teams Thursday that it is in conversations with several national coronavirus testing providers. This is a step towards a regular testing protocol because as Commissioner Adam Silver told players on a call this month, the league believes it needs a significant amount of testing if it is to complete the remainder of the season.”

The return of the NBA could mark the first of the three major professional sports leagues, including the MLB and NHL, to resume play in the midst of the pandemic, and Nick Wright believes the NBA’s return is a forgone conclusion, which he sees as a continuation of one of the most exciting NBA seasons in recent memory.

“I talked to an NBA executive Friday and what he told me was that he would be shocked at this point if the league doesn’t resume.”

With the return to play seeming more imminent with each passing day, details about proposed formats the league could return under have begun to surface.

Considerations include beginning the playoffs immediately, having a play-in tournament, or continuing with regular season games.

ESPN’s Max Kellerman believes that it’s vital to complete the rest of the regular season before the playoffs begin.

“I think when you really consider everything that we know, it’s okay to play the rest of the regular season and in fact, it’s probably a good idea … So what you can do is get all of the local TV money by completing the regular season. Yes, there is going to be an asterisk no matter what, there will be excuses no matter what, but if you give them 17 additional games of runway to the playoffs you’re more likely to see what would have happened anyway. If you start them in the playoffs, you’re going to get wilder deviations from the norm.”

With the idea of the league jumping straight to the playoffs being a legitimate option, there have been rumored conversations of the league abandoning the conference format this postseason and reseeding the 16 best teams from best to worst, based on record.

ESPN’s Mina Kimes thinks that the lack of travel for the rest of the season means that the reseeding would would make sense for this special occasion, though it wouldn’t be indicative of what the future of the playoffs would look like.

“I don’t have a problem with the reseeding, I don’t think there will be much to learn from it going forward. The issues there are ones of logistics and travel, none of that is relevant here. My preference, what I think they should do is just go straight to 16.”

Chris Broussard believes the potential reseeding could be the most interesting part of the league’s return considering it could open the door for a battle of Los Angeles in the NBA Finals.

“I’ve been a proponent of this for 10, 12 years now that the West has been so much better than the East. I always felt like they should reseed the playoffs, not go by East and West. Just go by the best records … I just talked to somebody earlier and he said that this is something that they are really considering. It doesn’t mean it is definitely going to happen but it is something that is in discussions.”

But ESPN’s Brian Windhorst says it is a long-shot that this proposal becomes a reality for the NBA Playoffs, considering it has to pass an owners vote, and not all owners will be in favor of the change.

“Over the next four days there is going to be a lot of back-room haggling to figure out what they are going to present to the owners on Friday. One of the things that is going to come out of this is I think there is a strong chance this is only going to be a 16-team playoff. And if that is the case, it opens up the possibility of something that Adam Silver has long wanted, which is to seed one through 16 in the postseason and go that route. It would have to pass an owners vote and that means a bunch of Eastern Conference owners would have to agree to it. It would take 20 of the 30 owners to vote in favor of the change and you’re just not going to get five Eastern Conference owners to vote for them not to make the playoffs.”

Regardless of what route the NBA takes towards resuming the season, the basketball world will more than likely just be excited to see the game make its return.

Fingers crossed that the target date of late July holds steady.