The NBA, like every other sports league in the United States, is currently playing the waiting game, hoping that they can return at some point this summer if the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic can be slowed sufficiently.
In the meantime, all the league can do is plan for various contingencies depending on how things go over the coming months. One such plan is a “bubble league” of sorts, in which teams are effectively quarantined together in one location to play out the remainder of the season and/or playoffs, with no fans in attendance.
One of the questions facing the league is how long would they need to give players and teams before restarting games, given that the vast majority of players will have gone months without playing basketball or even being able to shoot for months. Some have suggested they would need as few as two weeks or as much as one month, and according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the league has crafted a 25-day “return to basketball” plan that includes 11 days of individual workouts practicing social distancing and then a 14-day training camp once the league is cleared to do so.
"What they're looking at is a 25-day return to basketball window."
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 12, 2020
The issue with this plan — like all the others — is that there is no timeline for the virus to go away and without massive testing improvements and the availability of rapid testing for the NBA, there’s no way to be confident in clearing players to go ahead with 5-on-5 activities. Given what we know about the way the virus can spread from asymptomatic people — and that the league has had numerous asymptomatic cases — there would have to be a testing protocol in place in such a plan.
For now, all the league can do is try to figure all of these things out and, at the least, it seems like there is a plan in place. The question now is whether they get to enact it.