“You’re going to need a slow ramp-up. How slow it is going to be somewhat limited, with everyone wanting to get things going… Realistically three weeks, four weeks would be ideal, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
That’s what one trainer told NBC Sports about the time needed to return to games after the coronavirus shutdown ends, enough time to get guys back into shape and avoid potentially serious run of injuries.
Would 25 days be enough? That’s one option the league is seriously looking at — 11 days of social distancing working out (one player, one coach, one basket), then two weeks of a training camp — reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.
"What they're looking at is a 25-day return to basketball window."
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 12, 2020
That timeline for a return may be reasonable, teams and players to get back, and the league wants to crown a champion.
The problem is the clock doesn’t start until the NBA gets a green light from medical experts, and nobody knows when that will happen.
That clock cannot start too late or the season is lost. Sources I have spoken with have said the league doesn’t want to completely upend next season, which means finishing the current around the first week or two of September (which would still push back the start of next season). That would mean starting even a condensed playoffs at the beginning of August, which means getting the green light to restart in June and being ready to go by early July at the latest.
Will there be wildly available, accurate testing by that point (nationally will there be enough tests so it is not terrible PR for the “elite” NBA to have tests that might otherwise have gone to hot spots for the disease)? Will the NBA be able to create a “bubble” in Las Vegas or wherever that keeps everyone inside healthy if a second wave of the virus hits (the Chinese Basketball Association has struggled with that)? Then there are issues of keeping hotel janitorial staff, cooks, security and others security free, not to mention that players would be isolated from their family and close friends for more than a month (at least) to make this bubble work.
Even with all the hurdles, the only way this current NBA season gets completed is to make the bubble work. It’s going to be a lot longer before players are back in arenas in front of 18,000 fans playing meaningful games.