From health and safety guidelines to hotel assignments and planned sleep away camp activities, the NBA has finally started to provide teams with key details on how life in the “bubble” (if you can call it that) will work. Though the league’s official restart date (July 30) may still seem far away, players only have until next week (June 24) to decide if they plan on participating or not, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania — a deadline which roughly coincides with when teams are allowed to reconvene in their home markets.
With a flurry of information to digest, let’s take a look at all the key dates you need to know as the Pacers return to play:
June 22: All players report to teams; transaction window reportedly opens
According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, there will be a one-week transaction window during which teams will be allowed to waive and sign players. The Pacers don’t currently have an open roster spot, but they could put a two-way player on the roster in place of Jeremy Lamb as an injury replacement. Positionally, Brian Bowen II fits the bill to provide emergency wing depth, but he’s already exhausted the 45 days he can spend with an NBA team. Granted, in theory, the Pacers could convert Bowen’s two-way deal into a standard contract during this period, but they would need to clear a roster spot to make room for his services — and, yes, the same would also be the case for a hypothetical re-re-return of Lance Stephenson.
June 24: Player opt-in date for Orlando
Per Charania, Myles Turner and Justin Holiday were among the group of players who logged on for Kyrie Irving’s conference call last Friday in which wide-ranging concerns with the NBA’s return to play were discussed. In and of itself, this doesn’t necessarily mean that either of them is firmly against playing, but the decision of whether to do so, and what role sports should play in the fight for social justice, is nonetheless deeply personal. Turner, in particular, has been outspoken in support of black-owned businesses in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death but also has recently been posting videos of himself getting in training, indicating his readiness to resume the season.
“Part of it’s like, ‘Man, you’ve got to suck it up and go out there and do what you’re paid to do,’ but the other part of it is like, ‘Listen man this basketball s—t, I love it, it’s part of what makes me, me, but but it’s not all of what makes me, me, either’ and I have a responsibility as a young black professional athlete to advocate for this change.” Turner said, sounding internally conflicted during an interview, via Amp Harris Productions.
Rightfully so, the league won’t punish players who decide not to play in Orlando. Some pay, however, will be lost.
June 25: Deadline for Excused Absences
Players who are deemed to be at higher risk of illness from contracting COVID-19 will be excused from participating and not subject to compensation loss.
July 7: Teams travel to Orlando
Teams are limited to a 35-person travel allotment.
July 9/10/11: Orlando Training Camps open
Among the biggest takeaways from the health and safety protocol for Orlando is that teams won’t be allowed to engage in group practices until the second week of July. While still in-market, no more than eight players will be allowed on the court at a time, per The Athletic. For the Pacers, whose projected starting lineup logged a grand total of 86 minutes prior to play being suspended, this means they’ll have roughly 20 days to rebuild chemistry and get back into game shape — after a very long hiatus — before the seeding games start.
July 22-29: Scrimmages
Similar to preseason action, teams will play three scrimmages against other teams lodging in their same hotel. Per Shams, the Pacers will be staying at the Grand Floridian, which is a deluxe resort located on the monorail loop connected to the Magic Kingdom.
Sources: NBA teams Disney hotels based on seeding:— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 16, 2020
-Grand Destino: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers, Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat
-Grand Floridian: Thunder, 76ers, Rockets, Pacers, Mavericks, Nets, Grizzlies, Magic
-Yacht Club: Blazers, Kings, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns, Wizards
Based on the groupings, however, with the higher seeds all staying at the brand new Gran Destino Tower, there’s definite bulletin board material. The logic here is clear enough, especially from Disney’s perspective: The better teams would be expected to go further, so they could continue to be isolated at Gran Destino, nearest to the Wide World of Sports, while Grand Floridian and Yacht Club (possibly) get back to hosting more guests.
As it pertains to the Pacers, being at the same resort as the Rockets, Sixers, and Magic means there’s potential for them to play a tune-up game against one of their opponents in the seeding games. Oh, and one other thing: Even though team governors aren’t allowed to come into close contact with players, this entire set-up seems like a prime breeding ground for possible tampering, so maybe just be glad that the Pacers won’t be staying on property with the Heat (kidding!).
July 30: Regular season restarts with eight seeding games
The league still hasn’t released official schedules for the seeding games, but Yahoo’s Vincent Goodwill previously reported that the plan is for teams to continue with their original schedules and simply move onto the next game if a team isn’t on campus.
This would put the Pacers in line to face the Sixers, Heat, Suns, Magic, Rockets, Kings, Lakers, and Clippers — in some order. That said, since the game against Phoenix will be the third for Indiana but only the second for the Suns, there’s reason to believe that some shuffling could be in order, especially since the NBA also has to accommodate limited court access and will likely want to match games with time-zones as much as possible.
Sources: NBA has sent teams a visual of court/workout arrangements in Orlando: pic.twitter.com/sT2rtFyKXK— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 16, 2020
All of which means the Pacers could be in for a tougher strength of schedule if they end up facing, for instance, the Lakers earlier in the slate rather than later.
August 15-16: Play-in Tournament (if necessary)
The Pacers aren’t going to finish in eighth or ninth, so these couple of days will be earmarked mostly for downtime...which, apparently, will be available to be filled with movie screenings, DJ sets, manicures, pedicures, and watching other games! (Just one question...Are the DJs, barbers, and nail techs all going to be living in the “bubble,” too? If not, do we still have to call this a “bubble”?)
Also, is there somewhere to petition for Jimmy Butler to go to all of the Sixers’ games and absolutely none of the Pacers’ games?
August 17: First Round of Playoffs Begin
Teams that advance past the first round will be permitted to invite guests. In effect, whether staying or going, this means players won’t see their loved ones until close to September.
For more detailed information on quarantine guidelines, mask requirements, testing, isolation housing, and the possibility of players choosing to wear Oura smart rings, which may help with early detection of the coronavirus while also being super invasive, be sure to check out The Athletic’s full breakdown.