OKC Thunder players are slowly returning as news of the season resuming is expected via an NBA guideline memo expected June 1st.
This week the OKC Thunder joined the majority of the league as they re-opened the Thunder Ion practice facility. Groups of up to four players are taking advantage of this situation to take shooting practice and hit the weight room. These workouts are the first step for players to get their bodies physically set for a resumption of play.
When the NBA suspended play on March 11th the hope was for an eventual return to complete the season and playoffs. With the unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic communities quarantined, adapting, and adjusting expectations with each passing day.
After two-plus months of stay at home situations most of North America is slowly easing back via tiered approaches. The mandate remains to practice safe distancing but as positive tests continue to decline communities can expand their efforts. While no major sporting league has returned the NBA seems closer to that scenario becoming a reality.
This presumption gained momentum with news all teams will receive guidelines on June 1st from the head office on ramping up efforts for a return to action.
OKC Thunder to receive guidelines for season return on June 1st:
Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe ESPN article didn’t provide specific dates but offered some broad timelines. The first step will be for OKC Thunder players and their cohorts to recall all players who didn’t remain in their team market and have them complete a short quarantine. Simultaneously, it’s expected larger groups will be allowed in the practice facilities simultaneously and restrictions on coaches and staff will be softened.
This would be followed by a couple of weeks of individual workouts and up to three weeks of a formal training camp.
The league is discussing a step-by-step plan for a resumption of the season that includes an initial two-week recall of players into team marketplaces for a period of quarantine, one to two weeks of individual workouts at team facilities, and a two- to three-week formal training camp, sources told ESPN.
OKC Thunder to receive guidelines for NBA season resumption June Ist:
Wojnarowski and Lowe estimate a return to game action would occur sometime near the end of July. What isn’t known is how many (if any) regular-season games will be played. Nor is there confirmation all 30 teams will be involved.
There is a couple of reasons for the NBA to want every team to play at least five games. Most important of those factors is the revenue received from television contracts which require a minimum number of games (typically 70) to fulfill regional TV contract obligations.
Adam Silver has pushed his idea of a play-in tournament for some time and this could be the perfect opportunity to test that idea. Many pundits stated it made no sense to bring back all the teams and in truth it’s likely even if they did many of the top players might not play.
That reality might mean only the 16 seeded clubs return or perhaps the top ten teams in each conference with an opportunity to for the bottom seeds to move up and capture a playoff berth.
Regardless it’s likely players will want as much time as possible to shake off the rust and also play some games prior to starting playoff games. OKC Thunder captain, Chris Paul stated players would need at least a month to get ready.
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With over two months off it’s imperative the players have enough time to prepare in order to avoid injuries. After a layoff of this duration, soft tissue injuries are the main concern. So, again it’s likely the combination of financial payouts and players’ health will lead to at least some regular-season games being played.
As far as venues, Walt Disney World in Orlando and Las Vegas remain the top two destinations. If the league elects to separate the conferences then perhaps both locations will be utilized but if it’s a single site Orlando has seemingly taken the front runner position to become the host for the Silver’s “college campus” environment.
The fact the NBA has reached this stage is definitely a positive sign. That said, continual monitoring of the regression of the virus in the two proposed site areas is a given. As is testing requirements since the NBA says they’ll need 15,000 tests to complete the season. Silver has continually stated the NBA won’t ever put communities in a position where they are taking away tests from front line workers and employees providing essential services.
Presumably, the thinking is by the time teams arrived to start the season there would be ample tests available to meet both community needs and have enough tests for players and staff.
Although there remains so many t’s to cross and i’s to dot, this news at the very least offers room for optimism for a season resumption.