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NBA set for December exit from Disney bubble

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) have reached an agreement in principle on the start of the 2020-21 season, which is set to commence on a shortened basis on December 22.

The 2020-21 season will feature each team playing a 72-game schedule, down from the traditional 82 games, with the full regular-season and broadcast schedules to be released at a future date. The agreement is subject to a vote by the league’s Board of Governors, but approval is expected to be a formality.

The NBA will need to focus on addressing multiple challenges as the league emerges from the bubble it was forced to end the 2019-20 season in, and teams return to playing in their home arenas. In June, the NBA’s Board of Governors approved a restart plan for its suspended 2019-20 season that saw the North American league resume on July 31 with all remaining games played at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex near Orlando, Florida.

The season was suspended on March 11 due to COVID-19, with 22 of the 30 teams ultimately heading to Florida to complete a campaign that ended on October 11 as the Los Angeles Lakers emerged victorious in the NBA Finals.

The NBA will now have to deal with the health and safety protocols involved in games being played outside the bubble of a single location, and teams travelling across the US. Players faced daily COVID-19 tests when in the Disney bubble, and as a result nobody tested positive due to the strict protocols in place.

There is also the small matter of how the league’s sole Canadian franchise, the Toronto Raptors, will play their home games. The ongoing closure of the US-Canadian border amid the pandemic will mean the Raptors are set to need a US base away from their Scotiabank Arena home.

The latest reports have linked Bridgestone Arena, home of NHL ice hockey team the Nashville Predators, as a potential solution to this problem.