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‘Widespread Optimism’ Exists About The NBA Returning This Season

While NBA commissioner Adam Silver repeatedly has said no firm decision about the NBA’s timeline for a potential return will be made until May 1 at the earliest, several key developments related to containing the COVID-19 pandemic have reaffirmed optimism across the NBA about the eventual completion of the 2019-20 season.

A new report from Sam Amick at The Athletic shows “widespread optimism” among people at all levels of the league that the NBA can get back on the court at some point this summer. Amick also reports that “internal conversations about finding a solution remain robust,” but that ultimately, “the virus will have the final say.”

Among the chief priorities for a return to play: Building a schedule that works for all involved, using consistent, rapid testing to create an environment that protects everyone from infection, and buy-in from fans and health experts.

According to Amick’s survey of NBA stakeholders, there is weariness in the league about the perception that in mid-March, as leaders within the United States quickly realized the scope of our outbreak, that NBA players were among the first and most high-profile people to procure diagnostic tests. While one could argue the public nature of players like Kevin Durant and Rudy Gobert testing positive actually led to more awareness about the silent infectiousness of COVID-19, the NBA does not want to open itself up to any belief that they are stealing valuable medical equipment or personnel from the broader American public.

However, Amick also reports that new, 45-minute COVID-19 testing is one of the main factors in the growing optimism around the NBA toward a return. Recent support from the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, toward a so-called “bubble league” built around constant quarantining and testing will likely help the NBA’s cause as well. In addition, the involvement of pro sports leaders such as Silver himself in the White House’s coalition to help reopen the American economy ought to build support for pro sports’ hastened return.

As has been the case from the jump, no one in the NBA wants to get ahead of themselves and jeopardize the health or wellbeing of players. At the same time, a sense of urgency and optimism seems to be propelling the league toward a return to the hardwood.