The NBA is moving closer to sending players back onto the court to complete the season, and analyst Charles Barkley said he is “100 percent sure we’re going to play.”
“I do know this, talking to my bosses at Turner: We’re going to play basketball,” Barkley, a regular on TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” said Monday on ESPN’s “The Paul Finebaum Show.” “It’s going to be in Florida and [Las] Vegas or just Florida.”
The decision is coming soon, with states beginning to open up again. The NBA said Saturday it had begun “exploratory conversations” with the Walt Disney Co. to host a single-site campus for games, practices and housing for players and staffers at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.
“We’re going to make a decision in the next week,” Barkley said. “I’m 100 percent sure we’re going to play. I know my friends in Major League Baseball are going to play. I think that the hockey league is going to play. I think the pro football and the college football, they have to sit back and see how it goes for us.”
The NBA plans to hold a conference call with its board of governors Friday, and teams expect to be asked to instruct players to report to their home markets around the beginning of next week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week.
The NBA indefinitely suspended its season March 11 when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus, setting off a cascade of suspended seasons as sports came to a halt. Now, though, that’s changing. Major League Baseball and the players’ union face a critical two weeks as they work to salvage the season, and the NHL is targeting early next month as the start date for Phase 2 of its return-to-play protocol. The NBA said “late July” is its time frame for resuming games if conditions allow.
“Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved,” the NBA said in a statement, “and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place.”
The return would happen in multiple phases, people with knowledge of the league’s thinking told The Washington Post’s Ben Golliver, with an initial quarantine period for players. Most of the NBA’s 30 teams have reopened their practice facilities for individual workouts, but other facilities have remained shuttered because of local government orders.
In any event, the clarity players have been seeking appears close, and it would stand to reason that the NBA’s broadcast partners would have an idea of what may be coming. Players “really want to play,” Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, told ESPN, describing team-by-team virtual calls with players as a joint task force between the league and union has been negotiating plans to resume the season.
“It’s time. It’s time,” Roberts said. “It’s been 2½ months of, ‘What if?’ My players need some level of certainty. I think everybody does.”