If you’re looking for hope for a return of this NBA season:
The Chinese and South Korean leagues, both of which shut down in February due to the spread of the coronavirus, are pushing toward re-opening soon. Other leagues have tried to play as well. From Jonathan Givony of ESPN:
Games in South Korea, a country that drew worldwide praise for its success in containing the virus, seem closest to returning. South Korea’s league, the KBL, has games scheduled at the end of March, though in empty arenas. Many teams will see their American players landing in airports around the country over the next week, several agents told ESPN.
The South Korean league has been suspended since late February, and many foreign players elected to return home for their scheduled four-week hiatus. Not all foreign players will return, but it appears enough will to attempt to play games in two weeks….
[In the Chinese Basketball Association] Teams will play four games a week, behind closed doors, for one month before the playoffs start in mid-May, sources said. Games are expected to be played starting April 15 in two cities, Dongguan and Qingdao, where the 20 teams will play out the regular season behind closed doors before moving on to the playoffs. The situation remains fluid “and could change at any moment,” one local agent told ESPN.
In China, the plan is to play all the games in just a couple of venues, without fans for now, so things are more controlled. There would not be the travel and home-court advantage of fans in those games.
The Chinese league called American players back, but some have been hesitant to return to the country that was ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak. Other players have returned — this is these players’ livelihood — and more are on the way. When those players land they need to go through a 14-day quarantine period, which is why teams want them to return sooner rather than later.
Both China and South Korea took aggressive measures to contain the spread of the outbreak, which had the World Health Organization singling them out for how they handled the virus.
The Japanese league started to try and play games without fans last weekend, according to Givony, with players and officials being tested for a fever before the game. One game was called off when a referee showed an elevated temperature, and there remain concerns about the spread of the disease in that nation that could shut down the season.
How the virus was handled, the size of the outbreak and much more make it next to impossible to draw conclusions from these Asian leagues as to when the NBA might be able to return.
However, they did make it through to the other side and are starting up again, which is a sign that life will return to normal — or, a new normal — eventually.