The National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States was one of the first major sporting leagues to suspend play because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no concrete date as to when it will resume, but this Friday, it was revealed that there are considerations to finish the season in The Bahamas.
According to ESPN Senior Writer Brian Windhorst, various ideas have floated around between players, team owners and league executives on how to resume the season.
“One [option] is to consider using a sprawling casino property in Las Vegas, where everything could be held under one roof. Others have suggested playing in The Bahamas where a ballroom could be converted into a playing court specifically for broadcast. There has even been talk of taking over a college campus in the Midwest, where reported cases of COVID-19 are lower for the moment,” Windhorst wrote.
The Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) is the local body in charge of sanctioning basketball activities in The Bahamas. President of the BBF Mario Bowleg said that he has not heard from any of the NBA executives directly.
“That is just talk in the wind right now,” said Bowleg. “It is an idea that has been tossed about by players and media personnel. Executive members of the NBA have not brought that to any reality. I know how to reach them and they know how to reach me. If that was to be the case, a call would have been made to me. If that turns out to be the case a call would be made to myself and executives of the federation for our sanctioning and approval.”
Windhorst mentioned the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) which has been out of commission since January 24. The CBA has had a difficult time finding a place to finish their season. It was to resume this week, but it has been delayed to April or early May, Windhorst stated.
“The top challenge facing the league is creating a safe environment for players, coaches, referees, support staff and technical operators. An environment that, in the early stages of resuming the season, might not include fans. It might not include travel. It might not even include an arena,” Windhorst wrote about the NBA.
The CBA, according to Windhorst, has discussed playing in other cities where there is a low volume of cases. Players would be monitored. If that plan works out without a hitch, Windhorst said the NBA could certainly consider that option amongst other options.
On Friday, March 27, the Bahamian borders were closed to all incoming passengers, whether Bahamian citizens, legal permanent residents or foreign visitors. Planes can only come empty to pick up passengers and leave.
With such rigid measures in place, Bowleg said that it is up to the government to make a decision on whether or not the NBA comes to The Bahamas.
“When you think about what’s happening right now, that is not only the decision of the federation but also the decision of the government. This present government wants to safeguard and protect the Bahamian citizens as does every country who has closed its borders from international persons traveling in and out. We may have a low affected number of persons, but we also must think to protect ourselves. We don’t want to open our borders too quickly,” Bowleg said. “I know that the guys have been tested to ensure that they are not positive of COVID-19 but there’s a lot that comes into play.”
There is no time frame as to when the NBA will resume. Windhorst stated that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban speculated last week that the NBA may be resuming in mid May.
As of yesterday, the United States had over 125,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 – the highest of any country in the world. Italy is second with 92,472 cases. The Bahamas had 14 confirmed cases as of Sunday.
The NBA suspended its regular season on March 12 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert received a positive test result for COVID-19 before tip-off between the Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Several other players around the league tested positive after that.
Gobert, fellow Jazz teammate Donovan Mitchell, who also tested positive, and the rest of the Jazz’s roster and personnel were cleared by the Utah Department of Health on Friday.