NBA Begins 'Exploratory Conversations' About Restarting Season at Disney World

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIIMay 23, 2020

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12: A pedestrian walks past the NBA store on 5th Avenue on March 12, 2020 in New York City. The National Basketball Association said they would suspend all games after player Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz reportedly tested positive for the Coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

As the NBA's possible return continues to gain steam, the league has reached out to Walt Disney Company to discuss playing the remainder of its season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, according to league spokesperson Mike Bass.

Ramona Shelburne @ramonashelburne

Here’s the full quote from NBA spokesman Mike Bass on negotiations with Disney. https://t.co/29YSod7f9i

Per Bass, the league hopes to resume the season in late July.

The league reportedly had been discussing resuming activities in two cities, with Las Vegas and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, serving as the front-runners. 

Saturday's news suggests a change in that plan. The league would look to house all necessary personnel on a single site in Orlando.

Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA

Spoke with a source from Walt Disney World moments ago: "Our plan is very comprehensive. We're prepared to host the NBA for as long as it takes to finish this season. We believe we are the best suited site to handle something of this magnitude due to our considerable resources."

Aside from its status as broadcast partners, the NBA and Disney (which owns ESPN) have a lengthy relationship that includes the ESPN complex. The site formerly hosted the league's predraft camp before the NBA moved the combine to Chicago, and the facility continues to serve as the home of the Jr. NBA World Championship.

The 220-acre complex features multiple regulation-size basketball courts, including HP Field House and the Visa Center, the latter of which can be configured to fit multiple courts.

Disney chairman Bob Iger spoke with NBA officials in mid-April as the league began exploring plans to return, saying, "It's about the data, not the date," regarding a return.

On Friday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the NBA Board of Governors is slated to hold a conference call next week to "provide additional details for teams on a timetable and plan to proceed with the season."

According to Wojnarowski, teams are requesting to send their players straight to the bubble site, whether it's in Orlando or elsewhere, rather than recall their rosters to their market city and face additional quarantine or broader restrictions. 

Wojnarowski pointed to Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who is training in Philadelphia but would have to quarantine for 14 days in Canada should the team require him to travel there before play resumes.

Woj reports teams are expected to begin recalling players around June 1. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has previously said he expects to make a determination on whether to restart the season by mid-June. 

The NBA has been on hiatus since March 11, following Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert's confirmed case of COVID-19.