When talk of the NBA playing games without fans in a “bubble” first came up, Las Vegas became the natural first thought: Plenty of hotel rooms, venues where the league already plays Summer League, and the NBA and city have a strong relationship.
Almost as fast, there became real questions about if Las Vegas would really work for a bubble. On the one hand, it’s an open city and the UNLV campus (where the summer league games are played) is open, meaning it would be difficult to keep fans from just showing up at the hotel or venue trying to see their favorite players. Plus, keeping players and staff inside the bubble and not exploring the, um, distractions Las Vegas is known for would be difficult.
Which is why Orlando — specifically, the Walt Disney World property — appears to have moved to the front of the line for the NBA’s bubble city, if it happens.
One possible playing ground for NBA if finishing season becomes safe for league and players: Walt Disney World Resort property in Orlando, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. League has kept different scenarios in mind.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 29, 2020
Good friend of this site Keith Smith detailed weeks ago why the Walt Disney World complex made sense for Yahoo Sports. It has plenty of hotel rooms. More importantly, it has the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which already hosts major hoops events, has multiple facilities that can host games and practices, plus it’s all broadcast ready. Also, it has to be noted that ESPN/Disney are broadcast partners with the league.
However, it is the fact Walt Disney World is private property that is the most significant selling point.
Unlike many of the other locations mentioned as single-site candidates, Walt Disney World is private property. That includes not only the hotels and [ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex], but the immediate surrounding area as well. In effect, Disney can create a bubble by closing off streets and denying access to any area with relative ease. Some of the other potential locations may be able to restrict access to hotels/housing and the basketball facilities, but closing down the surrounding public areas would be difficult.
Meaning it is not only easier to keep fans and the public out, it is much easier to keep the players and staff in, rather than hopping around the city.
There are still a lot of challenges with creating a bubble that works: What about the hotel cleaning staff, do they come in and out of the bubble? What about the cooks and food for all these players and staff? Will close family be able to go with the players and stay in the bubble? Will there be enough available testing that the bubble can be created without taking needed tests and medical personnel away from hot spots where the disease is flaring up?
There may be no season. Adam Silver has said data will drive the NBA’s decision, and that call is not being made on May 1. However, with NBA practice facilities likely opening for a lot of teams on May 8, the possibility of games seems more realistic. If we, as a nation, can get on top of this disease and numbers start to fall in terms of new infections (and not just because we can’t test people, but really falling), the idea of basketball returning seems more likely.
If the NBA does return to play out this postseason, bet on Orlando as the host (or at least one of the hosts).