After a couple false starts, Yao Ming lays out options to restart Chinese basketball league

Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) chairman Yao Ming
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BEIJING — Yao Ming, the former Houston Rockets star and now president of the Chinese Basketball Association, says the league has three options for resuming the season that has been on hold since Feb. 1 over the coronavirus pandemic.

Yao said the league might play out the full schedule; play a shortened season with some games dropped; or end the regular season and go straight to the playoffs based on teams’ current rankings.

The Chinese league has had a couple of false starts in trying to create a bubble and restart games. The league has about 40 American players in it including Jeremy Lin, Lance Stephenson, O.J. Mayo, and Ty Lawson, and those players have been caught in the middle of all this.

Yao told state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday that he hopes as much as the season can be played as possible, but that public health and fairness were the key considerations. A tournament to restart the season was also being considered if not all scheduled games could be played.

Teams would also be isolated in hotels and fans barred from stadiums, he said.

In formulating a restart plan, the CBA received advice from a unique source, Yao said. Zhong Nanshan, who heads a national virus control team and is married to a former national player, provided “many useful suggestions,” Yao said. “With their help, we are more confident of the CBA’s return.”

As in most countries, professional sports in China has been largely put on hold during the pandemic. The national football association said last week it would be mandating a temporary 30 to 50% pay cut for all players and hoped to restart competition on a staggered schedule.