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The 2019-20 NBA season could begin again in July, US government could offer travel ban exemptions for international players

Teams are expected to receive instructions around June 1 to instruct players to return to their home markets.

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NBA Announces Possible Re-Opening Of Team Practice Facilities Starting In May
The Washington Wizards could be headed back to the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Congress Heights for a possible resumption of the 2019-20 season.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

I’m on record about my belief that the 2019-20 NBA season should be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. But I also understand that the league has a business to run, and players want to see a champion one way or the other.

The good news is that the NBA season is expected to continue before July, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe of ESPN on Wednesday. Teams will get guidelines on how to bring players to their teams around June 1.

How will the 2019-20 season resume?

This is likely going to be a multi-step process. Wojnarowski wrote that there will be a two-week quarantine for players, especially if they went outside of their markets since March when the season was initially suspended. Then, there will be a two-week period of workouts, and finally, a two-week training camp period. Games will likely begin sometime in July assuming all of these steps run smoothly.

Where will games be played?

After this six-week period, teams will likely play in one of two locations. The ones discussed include Orlando, Fla. and Las Vegas, Nev. For the Washington Wizards, my guess is that they will play in Orlando if it is officially an option, IF they are even brought back to play.

How many regular season games will be played?

That is unclear. If the NBA goes straight to the playoffs, the Wizards will be eliminated and there is no need for them to do anything. But there is a significant incentive to get teams to play 70 regular season games, even if many teams, including the Wizards, are eliminated from the postseason by default.

I think what will end up happening is that the NBA Playoffs could feasibly include EVERY team. Instead of a traditional 16-team, best of seven playoff series for four rounds, there could be opening rounds to include all teams so they have something to play for. Kevin Broom discussed that on Mar. 21 below:

Some NBA players have to go to other countries, whether for work (Toronto Raptors) or were in the European Union’s Schengen Area. Do they face complications?

As of now, the answer is yes, there are complications. Some players have left the USA to go to their home countries, against the NBA’s recommendation. Some players, like Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks, are in the European Union’s Schengen Area, according to Wojnarowski.

Like I mentioned earlier today about the Washington Mystics’ 2020 roster situation and the complications Emma Meesseman currently faces coming to the USA, Doncic is in the same situation. Slovenia, like Belgium is in the Schengen Area, the open border zone that allows free movement within most of Western and Central Europe.

Assuming current travel bans hold, players like Doncic and Meesseman will have to go to another country for at least two weeks before going to the US, assuming that country also accepts Europeans. Otherwise, they’re banned, simple as that.

The NBA knows this, and they’re hoping that U.S. President Donald Trump will offer the league an assist. The President held a call with Commissioner Adam Silver and other sports league commissioners on how to restart sports last April. It is expected that his administration will offer assistance, including exemptions to the EU travel ban so athletes like Doncic can go to the USA without complications.

If Trump gives the NBA travel ban exemptions for players who are EU citizens, he’s probably giving the WNBA exemptions as well. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert was on the same April call with Silver. That means Meesseman may not have to go through a lengthy quarantine in a place like Korea.

Besides the safe passage of basketball players from areas that the USA has banned, there is the issue on how the Toronto Raptors will conduct workouts and operate. Perhaps they could hold them in Canada, but it’s also possible that the team may hold operations in the USA instead. But again, we’re still early in this process.

Finally, all of this talk about travel bans could always be moot by the summer. If the EU and Canada lift their restrictions on Americans and other non-citizens, likely to incentivize travelers’ summer vacation plans, the US will likely reciprocate. We’ll see!

How do you all feel about a potential resumption of the NBA season? Nothing is official yet, but it’s going to be interesting to see how all of this shapes out. And it will be interesting to see if the Wizards have anything to play for once things start up again.