Despite positive coronavirus cases soaring in the state of Florida, the Boston Celtics will soon join 21 other teams at Walt Disney World to resume, and hopefully finish, the 2019-20 NBA season. Since our last update about two weeks ago, a lot more detail has surfaced about the season’s restart. We’re going to present this Q&A style and hopefully get everyone up to speed with where things stand for the Celtics.
Where are the players now?
The vast majority of the Celtics should have returned to the Boston area yesterday, June 22. That was the “mandatory” report date. Now, this date was a little bit nebulous as teams are continuing to be flexible with players who may not be able to return right at this time.
The good news is that several Celtics, including Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Tacko Fall, have already returned to the team facility for voluntary workouts over the last few weeks:
Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward get some shots up at the Celtics practice facility. https://t.co/5TSwfZp2ss— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) June 8, 2020
Today, June 23, is an important date as teams can go from two players in the facility at a time to four players at a time. In addition, head coaches (like Brad Stevens) can be present for workouts for the first time. This will last for a week, then from July 1 to July 9, the number of players will double again from four to eight players. Then, teams will pack up and head to Florida around the end of that window.
Isn’t today, June 23, important for some other reason?
Today marks the opening of the NBA transaction window. The NBA had previously put a moratorium on all transactions, effective March 11. Today, June 23, at 12:00 noon eastern, teams will be able to make roster moves again. This window will say open until 11:59 PM eastern on Tuesday, June 30 Here’s what’s allowed:
·Signing players for Rest-of-Season contracts: This one comes with some caveats. Players had to be free agents, signed to an NBA team or NBA G-League team during the 2019-20 season. If a player was signed to an overseas club, that player is not eligible to sign for the rest of this season.
·Claim players on waivers
·Sign a Two-Way player to a standard NBA contract, or convert that player to a standard NBA contract
There are two other transactions that will be allowed during this week-long window:
·Signing substitute Two-Way players. This will be allowed starting on Saturday, June 27 at 12:01 PM eastern and will be open until the closing of the transaction window on Tuesday, June 30.
·Signing substitute players: Teams will be permitted to add substitute players for any player who chooses not to play at Walt Disney World. Players are supposed to inform their teams if they choose not to play by Wednesday, June 24, but this is considered a very loose “deadline”.
All rosters are supposed to be finalized on Wednesday, July 1. Teams will still be allowed to replace players via substitute during the seeding game portion of the schedule, if necessary. Note: If a player is replaced via a substitute player, the original player is ineligible to rejoin his team for the remainder of this season.
In addition, if a player becomes ill with COVID-19 during the Play-In or Playoffs, the team can replace that player with a replacement player (must have three years or less of NBA service) for the period that the original player is out.
Are any Celtics not going to play in the restart? What about Jayson Tatum?
At this point, all 17 Celtics under contract are expected to play in the season’s resumption at Walt Disney World. No players are reportedly injured or rehabbing an injury. To this point, none are reportedly dealing with an active case of COVID-19. And no Celtics have publicly said they are choosing to sit out for personal reasons, be they related to the Black Live Matter movement or health concerns.
Jayson Tatum is part of a group of players from the 2017 NBA Draft class that have concerns about playing in Florida, due to looming contract extensions this offseason. While Tatum’s concerns are valid, all reports are that he’s going to play when the season restarts.
In addition, the NBA and NBPA approved plans for insurance coverage for players who have a career-ending injury or suffer a career-ending illness. These enhanced insurance plans will provide some level of protection for players against potential lost earnings.
One other note: Two-Way players (for Boston this includes Tacko Fall and Tremont Waters) are eligible for the 2020 NBA Playoffs. This is unlike a normal season where Two-Way players are ineligible for the postseason.
When will the Celtics get to Florida? Where are they staying at Walt Disney World?
NBA teams will have staggered arrivals in Florida in early-July. Training camps will start between July 9 and July 11.
For the duration of their time at Walt Disney World, the Celtics will stay at the Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.
Teams were placed in one of three resorts (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Disney’s Yacht Club are the other two host resorts). The placement was determined by where a team currently sits in the NBA standings. The idea being that the teams that are expected to stay in the playoffs the longest are placed at Gran Destino.
The Gran Destino Tower opened last year and is high-end, convention-style resort tower. No other guests will be at Coronado Springs for the duration of the NBA’s stay. This means players will have full access to all the pools, walking/jogging trails and other amenities while on property.
Where will they play? When will games start? What’s the schedule going to look like?
The central basketball hub will be Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (EWWS). That’s where the majority of games and practices will be held. Disney and the NBA are working together to add some workout facilities to the convention centers at each of the host resorts, but the main basketball action will take place at EWWS.
Games are currently scheduled to start on Thursday, July 30. Each team will play 8 seeding games.
As far as the schedule goes, the hope is that the schedule will be released at some point this week. Some reporting says it could come out as soon as Thursday, June 25.
All total, there are 88 games to be played in a period of about 16 days. That means five-to-six games will be played each day. Each facility is expected to host two games per day, with ample downtime in-between games for cleaning the facility before the next set of teams arrive.
During the Seeding Games and the 2020 NBA Playoffs, there will be days when games are played in the afternoon hours. Teams will also be scheduled as close as possible to their home time zone. Meaning, west coast teams may start games as late as 10:00 or 10:30 PM eastern.
What are the key dates to be aware?
There’s a lot going on, so here’s a handy little guide for planning the rest of your summer into the fall:
·Tuesday, June 23 to Tuesday, June 30 – Transaction window open
·Wednesday, July 1 – Rosters “finalized” for restart
·Early-July – Teams travel to Walt Disney World
·Thursday, July 9 to Wednesday, July 29 – Training Camp
·Thursday, July 30 to Friday, August 14 – Seeding Games
·Saturday, August 15 & Sunday, August 16 – Play-In Games (if necessary)
·Monday, August 17 to Sunday, August 30 – 2020 NBA Playoffs First Round
·Monday, August 31 to Sunday, September 13 – 2020 NBA Conference Semifinals
·Tuesday, September 15 to Monday, September, 28 – 2020 NBA Conference Finals
·Wednesday, September 30 to Thursday, October 13 – 2020 NBA Finals
Is this going to work?
That’s the billion-dollar question. Yes…billion with a B. That’s roughly how much revenue is at stake by playing, and completing, the 2019-20 NBA season.
Coronavirus cases have surged in Florida, and the Central Florida area where Walt Disney World, has seen the percent positive number jump to scary amounts of the past couple of weeks. The numbers are up enough that folks around the NBA are watching them very closely. Presumably, there is a tipping point where it’s decided it’s simply to risky to try. But, if that tipping point exists, it hasn’t been made public.
Health experts have weighed in on the NBA and Disney’s safety/wellness plan and given it high marks. Many have said it’s about as safe as things can be without there being a true “bubble”. The plan is extremely comprehensive, all the way down to amusing points about recycling decks of playing cards after use. But that level of detail shows the thoughtfulness, care and effort that went into crafting this plan.
The protocols also stipulate that it’s expected that some NBA personnel will test positive COVID-19 while the season is playing out. It’s also clear that won’t be reason to shut down, as the NBA did in mid-March.
So, is this going to work? Much like everything in the world now, only time will tell.