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NBA 2019-20 season: What happens next?

LeBron James and Anthony Davis in action for the Lakers
Image: LeBron James and Anthony Davis in action for the Lakers

The coronavirus crisis has forced the suspension of the 2019-20 season. When will games resume and what impact will the hiatus have on the immediate future of the league?

The NBA has temporarily suspended the 2019-20 season in response to the coronavirus pandemic. That decision was made to safeguard the health and wellbeing of NBA fans, players, team and arena personnel, media members and the general public.

The league intends to resume the season, pending further developments related to the pandemic.

During the hiatus period, the NBA has stated it will continue to monitor the situation in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health experts and government officials.

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League commissioner Adam Silver breaks how the NBA came to the decision to suspend the 2019-20 season

It is important to assert that, given the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus crisis, the NBA's immediate future is currently - and will continue to be - shaped by events beyond the league's control. There are no certainties given the changing circumstances and the crisis affecting people all over the world.

And while there are no definitive answers, here is what we know about the most common questions raised about the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season.

When will we next see an NBA game?

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirms the league's season suspension will last 'at least 30 days', as the sport responds to fears over coronavirus

Nobody knows. Not the league, not commissioner Adam Silver, not the team owners.

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On March 12, Silver, in an interview with TNT's Inside The NBA, announced a league suspension lasting at least 30 days. Officially, the NBA will be on hiatus until approximately April 9 or April 10, less than a week from the scheduled end of the regular season. That's the point at which Silver and the Board of Governors will try to determine when - or if - the 2019-20 season resumes.

Since Silver's announcement, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported team owners and executives are bracing themselves for the possibility of mid-to-late June being the best-case scenario for play to resume.

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On his podcast, The Woj Pod, on Monday, league insider Wojnarowski said: "There is not clarity and there is not certainty but there is less and less of a belief that the NBA could even possibly consider restarting until some time in June. It may be some time later than that. It may be not at all.

"The league is working an any number of contingencies to try to salvage the season, to have playoffs and be able to start up another season probably quicker than they would like to. Right now, the league has been pursuing dates and arena all the way into late August."

Could the 2019-20 season be cancelled completely?

Yes, it's possible. No one can predict how long it will take to contain the virus outbreak. If the situation extends for long enough, the NBA could run out of time to complete the 2019-20 season and will be left with no choice but to shut things down.

The last time an American sports league was forced into this position was 26 years ago when Major League Baseball cancelled their 1994 season in September of that year following a player strike that extended into 1995.

Could the NBA scrap the rest of the regular season and start the playoffs once given the green light to resume?

Yes, that's an option, but it depends on how quickly the league is able to restart.

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John Hollinger, a former vice president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies and now a writer for The Athletic has said: "If players aren't back on the court until June or later, a common-sense scenario is taking the top eight teams from each conference as of March 13, launching a truncated postseason of best-of-five (or even best-of-three) series with those 16 teams, and trying to have a champion named by sometime in July or early August.

Will arenas be available for games if the season resumes?

Should the 2019-20 season extend into July and August, arena availability could be a problem. Most NBA arenas host concerts and other shows during the summer months. At the Staples Center, home to both the Lakers and the Clippers - both expected to make deep playoff runs - finding dates to stage games would become a serious issue if and when the season resumes.

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NBA legend Magic Johnson encourages all NBA fans to practise social distancing to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus

Hollinger has suggested day games could resolve the situation should it arise. On his podcast, Wojnarowski said: "If the games resume - and they would probably do so without fans in the arena at least initially - the league is open to not having these games in arenas. They are looking at practice facilities or G-League facilities where you would not have the backdrop of a cavernous empty arena on television.

"The one thing you are finding in talking to people around the league is that everything is on the table. Adam Silver is open to any and all ideas about how to proceed."

Where else will the impact of the league suspension be felt?

A 2019-20 NBA season ending in August would directly impact basketball at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo (scheduled to begin in late July), assuming the latter goes ahead. NBA players, American and international alike, benefit greatly from the exposure they receive representing their countries at an Olympic Games, far more so than at the FIBA World Championships.

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Golden State Warriors basketball player Steph Curry impresses the need for social distancing to tackle coronavirus after fears he had caught the illness

The 2020 WNBA season could also be affected as many WNBA teams share arenas with NBA teams.

The 2020 NBA Draft could also be impacted. Pre-Draft events like the Combine, scheduled to take place from May 21-24, might not take place. Previously simple procedures like inviting potential draftees to work out and interview with teams can't take place if travel restrictions and social distancing remain enforced. Teams will be forced to rely on the scouting they have already done earlier in the season when it comes to selecting players.

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If the 2019-20 season resumes, a situation where the NBA Finals, 2020 Draft and 2020 Free Agency take place over a much more concentrated period is likely.

How does all this impact the 2020-21 season?

If the 2019-20 season resumes, it is likely to push back the start of the 2020-21 season as players would require a normal offseason and preparation for the new campaign.

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Speaking from isolation, Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell said he was feeling fine despite testing positive for coronavirus and admitted it took a while to cool off after contracting it from teammate Rudy Gobert

A delayed start date to the 2020-21 season would have to be renegotiated by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) because the start and end dates of every season are stipulated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

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A 2020-21 season forced to run from December 2020 into the summer of 2021, if proven to be financially successful, could provide a template for schedule reform over the coming seasons.

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