Report: NBA Discussing Regional Bubbles Next Season; Orlando, Vegas ConsideredAugust 9, 2020
The NBA is considering splitting its 30 teams into groups that will play at regional sites for the 2020-21 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski:
"This time, ideas center on regional sites and windows of participation that would extend a month for teams, sources said. After that, teams would go home and train—perhaps for two weeks—and move onto the next regional bubble against a new pod of teams. Orlando is a consideration, and Las Vegas—a finalist for this summer's restart—would reemerge as a possible site too, sources said."
A Dec. 1 start date has been tossed around to launch the 2020-21 regular season, but the league is open to beginning in early 2021 if that buys the league more time to host games at home arenas with fans.
That, of course, is dependent on a number of COVID-19 related factors.
"There's hope for vaccines, but the league has prepared teams for the reality that mass distribution would be unlikely for a full year, sources said. For now, too, there's a skepticism about the reliability of rapid-response testing. They're hopeful that advances in the technology could facilitate ways to get fans into arenas -- even if it means less than capacity. Teams are already modeling options that include a few thousand fans to buildings filled closer to capacity."
The NBA's bubble-like campus at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, is the home to the league's restart, which consists of eight regular-season games each for the 22 teams present as well as a 16-team, four-round playoff.
The bubble has been a resounding success thus far, most notably because no player has tested positive for COVID-19 since entering the campus. Therefore, hosting games in Orlando would make sense, and the same goes for Las Vegas, where the league invites all 30 teams for summer league play every year.
But holding two weeks of regular-season action for 22 teams plus playoffs is likely far easier to do at one location than it is to have 30 teams at one site for a six-month, 82-game regular season plus playoffs. Splitting teams up regionally seems like the most prudent option until the league can safely return to arenas with fans.
Wojnarowski also mentioned, though, that the league is open to playing games at practice facilities "that are more cost-effective and more easily repurposed for television."
For now, the league will conclude its regular season Friday. Playoffs begin Aug. 17 and are scheduled to run no later than Oct. 13 when Game 7 of the NBA Finals is scheduled (if necessary).