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NBA, MLB explore alternatives to continue athletics amid COVID-19

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The NBA and MLB are considering different options on how they can resume their seasons amid the current conditions due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

When Rudy Golbert, a player for the Utah Jazz, tested positive for the virus on March 11, the NBA suspended its season immediately.

MLB followed suit the next day by cancelling all of the remaining scheduled spring training games and delaying the start of the regular season.

The majority of professional sports have not played in the United States since that week in March. 

While no plans are even close to being put into motion yet, the professional leagues are beginning to investigate what a return to pro sports in the coming months might look like.

Stay-at-Home orders and social distancing guidelines are in place all over the country and it could be a long time before resuming play would be allowed, but the NBA and MLB are investigating various options that could help play resume sooner.

The NBA was only five weeks away from the playoffs when play was suspended and one option to finish the season that is reportedly being considered is to hold the entire postseason in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is the site of the NBA’s yearly Summer League, which means that it has the facilities and resources needed to host every playoff team in one place.

A CNBC report stated that one of the proposed plans is to cancel the rest of the regular season and then do a play-in tournament for lower seeded teams to enter the postseason.

The postseason would then begin with a best-of-five series for the first round, before transitioning to a one-and-done tournament to decide the two teams that make the Finals, which would also be a five-game series, according to sources clued into the NBA’s planning.

This scenario would at the very least bring a decided champion for this NBA season and provide closure, which LeBron James, the league’s premier star, has voiced concerns about.

“I don’t think I would be able to have any closure if we did not have an opportunity to finish the season,” James said in a conference call with reporters.

The logistics of finishing out the season in a vacuum in Las Vegas with the threat of COVID-19 being a huge concern are difficult.

This proposed plan most likely would not be put into action until at least over a month from now, as the country is still essentially on lockdown and even when the league is ready to resume, players could not transition from quarantine to playing NBA games again overnight. 

If the NBA moved the rest of the season to Las Vegas, games would surely be played with no fans in attendance, but safety measures would need to be put in place to prevent the spread of the virus among all the players, coaches, officials and media that would be there.

This would probably mean having everyone tested for the virus and quarantined for two weeks before starting and having tests readily available so they could continue to be given to all personnel.

A similar plan is being discussed to salvage the MLB season, as teams could theoretically play a shortened season this year in Florida and Arizona where spring training is held every year. 

This layout gives MLB access to 26 different ballparks that are all in short proximity to each other, which would eliminate the constant air travel that usually comes with an MLB season.

However, for this plan to work teams would have to re-align to their Spring Training leagues for the whole season. 

This would mean different divisional rivals and paths to the postseason for all teams.

The unique setup and changes to the league’s normal alignment would make for a bizarre season, but are preferable to no season at all, as the COVID-19 situation continues.

Countless factors would have to come into place for these proposed plans to get the NBA and MLB back in action to happen, but if they did, a return to sports in some capacity would be a pleasant surprise for sports fans all over America.Janssen can be reached at [email protected].