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Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, has emerged as the “clear frontrunner” to host NBA games as the league moves toward returning to the court after a months-long pause during the coronavirus pandemic.
The NBA is in advanced talks with Disney about using the site as a hub for a revived season, The Athletic reported, citing sources with knowledge of the matter. At present, Orlando is expected to serve as the sole host city for games featuring all 30 NBA teams.
League officials have yet to indicate when play will resume. However, executives are said to be eyeing a mid-July return after a few weeks of training.
The NBA was the first U.S. sports league to suspend its season mid-March after one of its players, Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert, tested positive for COVID-19. The lengthy season delay, coupled with the likelihood that games will take place without fans for the foreseeable future, is expected to cost NBA franchises hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Las Vegas is another potential hub site for NBA games, according to The Athletic’s report. The NBA has explored multiple scenarios that would allow for a safe resumption of play.
Earlier this month, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave the go-ahead for teams to reopen their training facilities for limited workouts, so long as they are in compliance with local public health orders. The league began withholding 25 percent of player pay May 15 as it navigates long-term financial complications related to the pandemic.
Most star NBA players and team owners support a continuation of the 2019-20 season, according to multiple reports. It’s unclear if the league will hold the rest of its regular season or move straight into the postseason, which would be nearing completion under normal conditions.
Despite the financial setbacks associated with the stoppage, Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said Silver made the right decision in suspending play in March.
“We didn’t know what we were dealing with at the time. We had been talking about, the commissioner’s office and all the owners,” Fertitta told FOX Business Network anchor Neil Cavuto. “I do think Adam made the right call at the right time, because if you would have had numerous players get it at the time, and we didn’t know what we were dealing with, it wouldn’t have been good. I think he called it off at the right time and I think we’ll get it started at the right time.”