Going back to the shutdown of the NBA season on March 11 because of the spread of the novel coronavirus, the feeling around the league has been that if there was any hope of returning to action to finish this season, it would have to happen in a closed space, or perhaps two closed spaces. And no place can offer a bigger or more efficient cordoned-off environment than Las Vegas.
According to a proposal the NBA has gotten from MGM Resorts, there is already a plan in place to allow for the league and its players to work out a way to finish the season in an entirely quarantined setting.
The New York Times reported this week that MGM, which became the league’s partner in 2018 as it attempts to expand its gambling footprint, has offered a detailed way to get the NBA back to action. Not just the NBA, either—the resort has made a similar pitch, the Times reports, to the WNBA, Major League Soccer, and the NHL.
According to the report by Kevin Draper:
MGM envisions a fully quarantined campus, essentially one full block of the Las Vegas Strip, where players would live and play out whatever schedule the leagues want. The athletes would be joined by their families, league and broadcast media employees, as well as the staff and vendors needed to serve them, with access to lounges, spas, restaurants and all the other perks the resorts offer (yes, even gambling).
NBA Players, Staff Could Stay at Mandalay Bay
The idea is sound: Have the league return to action in a place that can be kept entirely disinfected, with players, cleaning crews, and staff members who have been tested and quarantined. Continue testing during the length of the teams’ stay to ensure everyone’s safety.
Players and staff members could stay at the three hotels in the 4,700-room Mandalay Bay resort at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip—the Mandalay Bay, the Delano, and the Four Seasons. At the massive Mandalay Bay convention center, 24 courts could be built, with 19 to be used for practices and five for games, all of which would be televised.
MGM, according to the Times, also proposed giving the league access to the Thomas & Mack Center on the nearby campus of UNLV, where the league holds its annual summer league.
MGM’s plan is only one of several that have cropped up as potential ways for the league to finish the 2019-20 season. Playing at Disney World in Orlando is another, as is possibly taking the remainder of the year to Alaska, where the incidence of COVID-19 has been limited.
Other Leagues’ Restarts Have Flopped
The problem, of course, is that the novel coronavirus has been very unpredictable and the NBA is concerned that any attempt to restart the league will open a path to a player or staff member somehow bringing the virus into the closed setting. That would not only torpedo the entire plan, but it could also endanger lives.
The league has been very cautious about reopening given the embarrassing stops-and-starts that have happened in China, where the CBA’s original plan to get going again in early April was scotched and pushed back to May. But that does not seem likely, either.
Japan’s B League attempted to restart in late March, but the restart was a mess and the league canceled its season days. Japanese baseball also planned a delayed return on April 24 but that, too, got pushed back to late May and might not happen until June, if at all.
The NBA, and all sports leagues in this country, are very much attuned to the problems leagues in other countries are having.
The league and its players, though, do want to continue to hold out hope for a return of games. Estimates are murky, but the league stands to lose about $1 billion if the season never gets started up again.
Considering that the salary cap—and thus, pay that players get in future seasons—is based on revenue, there is plenty of incentive for players and owners to find a way to finish this year and rescue as much revenue as possible.
“I don’t think there is anything you can say for sure about any of it except that there are a lot of ‘what-ifs’ out there,” one league executive told Heavy.com previously. “They don’t know how long this virus is going to be with us, how long we will be doing social distancing and what the players (union) are going to be OK with doing to get the season done with. All you can say for sure is that they want to get it done, they want to play it.”