The NBA is set to resume the 2019-2020 season at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, at the end of July. The league has been suspended since March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Of the 30 teams in the NBA, 22 were selected to finish out the season: the top 16 teams in the Eastern and Western conferences, plus six more teams within six games of eighth place in the two conferences. Each team will play eight regular season games at three gyms within the “Disney World bubble” to determine who advances to the playoffs, which will begin on August 17.
Players on the 22 teams invited aren’t required to finish out the season. “It is critical that every player understand that he has the right to choose not to return to play,” the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) writes in a health and safety memo it sent to players in June. Those who choose to opt out, either because of safety concerns or a reluctance to return to work due to family reasons or social issues related to the Black Lives Matter movement, “will not be disciplined,” reads the memo, which was obtained by The Athletic.
They will get a pay cut, though: “To respect the decision of those who do return to play, it has been agreed that any player who chooses not to participate will have his compensation reduced by 1/92.6 for each game missed up to a cap of 14 games, even if his team plays more than 14 games in Orlando,” the memo says.
The salary reduction does not apply for players who are either “excused” or “protected,” though. “Excused players” are those who have a higher risk for severe illness from coronavirus, as determined by a panel of three medical experts. “Protected players” are those whose team thinks they are at a higher risk for severe illness from coronavirus. (If their team doesn’t think they’re higher risk, the player could still be excused by medical experts and not have his salary reduced.)
Since not all 22 teams will make the playoffs (16 teams will advance), some teams will only play the eight regular season games. That means the players on those teams could see smaller salary reductions: If they miss all eight games, their salary will be reduced by 8.6%. If a player on a team that makes the playoffs and plays 14 or more games misses 14 of them, they’ll see a 15.1% salary reduction.
As for the players whose teams didn’t make the 22-team cut in the first place, their salaries won’t be affected (besides the reductions already agreed upon when the season was originally suspended).
Players had until June 24 to alert their teams whether or not they were choosing to play.
Currently, those who chose to play are arriving on campus, where they’ll self-isolate in their hotel rooms until they receive two negative Covid-19 PCR tests at least 24 hours apart. If they test negatively, players will then participate in team training camps and scrimmages until games start on July 30.