Could Disney World really solve the NBA’s coronavirus puzzle?

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Photo: Joe Burbank / AP

Although no one knows for sure, all signs suggest that the NBA may at least be trying to continue its season – which has been suspended due to the Covid 19 pandemic – possibly as early as July. One of the biggest questions the league has to answer is where the teams will actually play. It turns out that the answer could concern the magical kingdom. Yes, the NBA is targeting Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, which is likely to raise a few questions among sports fans.

What, the Walt Disney World? The one with Mickey Mouse and Space Mountain?

One and the same. On ESPN’s First Take, Danny Green, the guardian of the Los Angeles Lakers, confirmed reports that the league is seriously trying to play games at Disney World. “It looks like we have multiple location options, but I think we tend to go to Orlando and Disney where it’s safest,” said Green.

Shortly afterwards, the NBA released an announcement from spokesman Mike Bass: “The NBA, in collaboration with the National Basketball Players Association, is conducting exploratory talks with the Walt Disney Company about the restart of the 2019-20 NBA season at the end of July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as the only location for an NBA campus for games, exercises and living. “

Does the plan make sense?

Oddly enough, yes. If the NBA restarted the season, it would want to limit the number of people involved. The ideal place would be a controlled, centralized environment to reduce the risk of outside infection. As noted in the NBA announcement, Disney World would provide players and employees with their own accommodations in the form of hotels and basketball courts suitable for both practice and official games.

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It is hard to imagine that a place is more controlled than Disney World, especially since it belongs to a private institution. It doesn’t hurt either that the teams would be in Florida, which seems determined to reopen sooner than most other US states. (Whether this is particularly smart or not is another question altogether.)

How did the idea come about?

It was first brought up a few weeks ago by Yahoo Sports writer Keith Smith, who wrote an expanded play (which at times bordered on advertising) about how Disney World would be the perfect place for the NBA season to resume. On paper, it seemed like a ridiculous idea – and some noticed that Smith was a former employee of Walt Disney World. However, unconventional problems require unconventional solutions, and Smith’s idea quickly caught on within the league.

How exactly would that work?

Let’s make this clear: the players will not shoot tires between the roller coasters. In an interview with SB Nation, Smith made it clear that converting existing spaces into basketball courts wouldn’t cost much. “[The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex] has three primary interiors that would be the center of it, ”said Smith. “I assume that two will be set up for games. The third is a huge room for adjustment. I think they set up dishes for exercises and possibly shootarounds there. If necessary, Disney could convert part of their own meeting room into practice areas. “

Would playing at Disney World make the 2019-20 season cheaper?

Safe for some. For starters, it is not yet known whether the league can make up all regular season games that still need to be played. Even if everything goes according to plan, we could have a shortened season. In fact, the league could decide that it would make more sense to jump straight to the postseason.

If all the games take place in one place, the home advantage is essentially meaningless. Even at best, an NBA champion crowned in Disney World would likely feel different for many fans. It is doubted that the NBA itself is too worried that people won’t take the rest of this season seriously – it’s not that the league has had problems connecting its brand with animated characters in the past.

What would be the main disadvantages?

They would be the same disadvantages as trying to continue the NBA season anywhere. Each plan requires frequent testing for Covid-19, not just the player, but also the other NBA and Disney World staff who would be in regular contact with them. Obviously, anyone who tested positive would have to be quarantined immediately, and should the number of positive tests get out of control, the league would likely need to be closed a second time. In this case, it could well be the end of the season.

The league is currently in discussions with corona virus testing providers. This leads to another problem: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has made it clear that the season will only resume when there are enough tests for the rest of the country. Will we be there by July? It is impossible to say at the moment.

Then of course there is the worst-case scenario: Let us assume that the season starts again and as a direct result someone becomes infected and suffers from life-changing health effects or dies. What if multiple coronavirus deaths occur due to the resumption? It is something that will weigh on the minds of those who decide whether to play in the middle of a pandemic. Is the NBA so eager to crown a champion that it is ready to risk a tragedy in the happiest place in the world? The answer looks more and more “yes”.

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