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NBA And The New Normal: Where Will The Pandemic Take The League?

The 74th season of the National Basketball Association was off to a great start in 2019. We saw a few minor and major changes in the roster line-ups thanks to trades and free agencies. We witnessed the entry of a few very promising rookies, such as Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and Brandon Clarke to name a few.

We said goodbye to some of the best players the league has ever seen as they have decided to move on to the next part of their lives. Dwayne Wade, Dirk Nowitski, Tony Parker, and Vince Carter are just some of the few superstars to retire their jerseys during this season.

In a very unfortunate occurrence, the world bade farewell to one of the best legends the game has ever produced. On January 26, 2020, Laker legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash along with his daughter, Gianna, and a few more companions.

The Pandemic Dilemma

If that loss wasn’t tragic enough, the league faced one of its biggest challenges in the form of the dreaded novel coronavirus disease. When the virus started to spread in the country, Commissioner Adam Silver and the rest of his team suspended all games indefinitely on March 11, 2020, after news of Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert testing positive of COVID-19 made its rounds in the media.

Typically around this time, the NBA finals should have already been finished. The winning team should have already been in the midst of celebrating. Bottles of champagne and alcohol with neck hangers indicating their different sponsors should have already been popped in the locker rooms and poured out in both glasses and on people.

Now that we’re making our way through uncharted territory, both industry insiders and fans alike are wondering what this pandemic’s long-term effect will be on the sport. When the league decided to suspend the games, there were no clear signs when the season will resume.

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On June 4, 2020, shortly after the reopenings, the NBA Board of Governors came to a decision to restart the season on July 31 tentatively. Under this plan, 22 teams are slated to play an additional 8 regular-season games to help determine the overall playoff standing. The top 16 teams will then move on to the postseason.

Just a few days ago, players returned to the court and started training again, after almost four months of inactivity. All of the remaining games for the season will be played at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando with only a very limited audience in attendance to comply with the WHO and CDC’s COVID-19 safety protocols.

The schedules have also been bumped due to the lockdowns with the start of the 2020-21 season moved to a December 1 start. While the league intends to still push through with a full 82-game 75th season, the schedule will be a bit more compressed than we’re used to. This is to allow the finals to fall on the typical June schedule to accommodate the Tokyo Olympics which was also bumped to next year.

While financial need is driving the league to resume, the safety of the players and their family is still the topmost priority of the league. Testings will still be done. As will the strict observance of COVID-19 preventive measures. The league will do everything in its power to resume responsibly. As long as the threat of the virus is still among us, it will not take any chances.

At this point, the NBA will take things one step at a time under these new normal conditions. Changes might be put in place based on how we’re progressing in finding a vaccine and cure for the disease. Until then, the league will do whatever it takes to adapt to the new atmosphere brought about by the pandemic while still providing the fans with the best in sports entertainment.

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