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The NBA's plans to resume its season took a more concrete form.
The league entered into “exploratory conversations with the Walt Disney Company on restarting the 2019-20 NBA season in late July at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Florida, as a unique venue for an NBA campus for games, practices and housing, ”said NBA spokesman Mike Bass in a statement on Saturday.
"Our priority remains the health and safety of everyone involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that the appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place."
The NBA, who suspended his season when Utah jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), explored the idea of using a single site to resume games, and Las Vegas and Houston were other sites considered.
But if the NBA restarts, the Disney complex makes sense for several reasons, starting with the NBA's relationship with Disney, owner of ABC and ESPN, two of the league's top TV partners.
The Wide World of Sports Complex, located southwest of Orlando, has several facilities that can host games, practices and accommodations. The HP Field House, which once hosted college basketball tournaments, includes an arena-style court setting and a smaller gym. The Arena and Visa Center are also set up for games and practices, and there are several accommodation facilities at the various Disney complexes in the area.
The entire Disney complex in central Florida spans Orange and Osceola counties, where COVID-19 cases are stable compared to other parts of the country. In May, there were 300 new positive tests for COVID-19 in Orange County, from 1,400 to 1,700, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. In Osceola County, positive cases of COVID-19 increased from 486 to 644 in May.
Compare that to Clark County, Nevada, where Las Vegas is located: COVID-19's positive tests increased to 5,800 from 4,100 in May – almost four times as many new cases as the two Florida counties combined.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also has a strong relationship with Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, whom Silver consulted on issues prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Iger also spoke with NBA owners on a conference call in April.
There is also an optical angle: restarting at the Disney family looks nicer than the "what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas" attitude in Las Vegas.
The NBA is still exploring the appearance of a competitive restart. Several options are on the table, including trying to end the regular season, a part of the regular season, skipping straight into the playoffs or a play-in format for the postseason.