Basketball in ballrooms? Empty Las Vegas casinos 'literally' hold hoop dreams as NBA considers playoffs at single-site quarantine
Basketball could return with a truncated round of playoff games held in ballroom casinos in Las Vegas as the NBA plots a makeshift conclusion to the season in the midst of the continuing coronavirus crisis in the US.
As the public health crisis deepens across every state, association officials remain hopeful of resuming the regular season in late June, holding the playoffs at a single site where teams would be quarantined in a bid to avoid the outbreak of player infections that led to the current campaign being suspended on March 11.
Adrian Wojnarowski, an NBA insider whose insights into how the sport might return have been required reading for his following of more than four million on Twitter since the enforced break, said contingency plans had been drawn up according to the time that might be allowed for a season finale.
“Las Vegas is a destination that has been discussed, built around the idea of literally perhaps using a casino, playing games in potentially a ballroom with courts,” he told ESPN.
“Smaller venues could be used. If you were going to return without fans, playing a game in a tighter environment, you could be a little more creative with television angles and sound to make it more appealing for television.”
The NBA is ready to forego gate receipts in favour of hugely important TV revenue as it looks to ensure a climax to the season.
US president Donald Trump has warned of a “painful” fortnight for the nation as the deadly virus continues to spread, and Wojnarowski warned that officials did not feel “a sense” of being able to allow spectators to watch any remaining games at the venues chosen, even in more than two months’ time.
“There are lots of different scenarios, almost all of which would be built around a return without fans in the stands, certainly initially,” he explained.
“The league’s hope is that they would have at least several regular-season games before starting the playoffs. You may have shorter series, perhaps, in the first round.”
The NBA has scheduled Board of Governors meetings in mid-April, although any summits are unlikely to be held in person under government guidance around the virus.
Speaking on Instagram, Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers suggested that the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada, where the NBA Summer League was held last year, could provide a venue.
“Eventually, the season is going to have to resume,” he insisted. “To the people thinking the season’s going to get canceled and nothing’s going to happen, I doubt it.”