Walt Disney World. The Orlando theme park hub is home to Mickey Mouse, countless resorts, restaurants, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Right now, those properties remain closed due to COVID-19, but could soon become an NBA village as the league ponders its return in the coming weeks.
The plan will be discussed on a Thursday conference call with the NBA board of governors, who are expected to approve the proposal. The structure is expected to be quite different from what anyone had previously predicted, as only 22 teams are expected to compete in a blended regular season and playoffs finale, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
The 22 teams would consist of the top eight teams from each conference – those currently in playoff position. The remaining six teams would include those that are currently within six games of eighth place: Washington from the Eastern Conference, and New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, and San Antonio from the Western Conference.
Las Vegas and Orlando were both believed to be possible landing grounds for the league’s postseason. According to The Athletic's Sam Amick and Shams Charania, with Florida ahead of most of the country in terms of opening up and the facilities already in place in the area, the state has become the front-runner in the bidding sweepstakes.
The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex includes the HP Field House and the Visa Center which have hosted high-level basketball tournaments from AAU to the Advocare Invitational college basketball tournament in November.
More importantly, each location features multiple courts and is broadcast-ready.
Disney boasts a variety of hotels including the Art of Animation and Pop Century hotels less than a mile from the complex with nearly 7,000 rooms, numerous restaurants and leisure activities. However, in a conference call with reporters this week, Jared Dudley of the Lakers said, “players would be allowed to leave” those campus-like environments if they do return. While much of the details regarding safety protocols has yet to be determined, it's expected that there will be daily testing and players that test positive will be quarantined.