By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

THE National Basketball Association (NBA) successfully restarted its season on Friday, bringing relief and excitement to the league, especially after putting much effort in making it a reality and overcoming challenges in the run-up.

Suspended its 2019-2020 season on March 11, the NBA resumed activities in a “bubble” setup at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, on July 31 (Manila time) with the end view of completing what was an excitement year of basketball for the NBA until the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) put everything to a stop.

In the NBA campus, the 22 teams who qualified to resume their season will each play eight seeding games over the next two weeks. Said games will determine the playoff standings, with a possibility of a play-in series between the No. 8 and No. 9 seed of each conference if the ninth seed is within four games of the eighth seed.

After that the postseason starts in a traditional format, with seven-game series in each round until a champion is crowned.

In a global media call last week, NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum shared that where the NBA is right now with the restart is something they are happy about and highlighted that it is a direct result of much planning and cooperation, particularly in ensuring the safety and health of all those taking part in it.  

“I think when you’re trying to do business in a pandemic, it’s all about safety and health, first and foremost,” said Mr. Tatum.

He went on to say that as they went about planning for the restart it was not easy as COVID-19 was new to everybody and presented so many challenges.

Mr. Tatum shared much of the planning centered on understanding the virus and finding ways to weave through it.

The process started, the NBA official said, even before they made the decision to suspend the ongoing season in March.

“I’d say the hardest part was the medical and the health and safety protocols. That was the hardest part, because we were not going to go forward if we didn’t come up with a plan that we felt very, very comfortable with that would keep everybody safe and everybody healthy. And so that took months and months and months of conversations, of trying to build something that’s never been built before, and doing it in a way where we had confidence that we could keep people safe,” Mr. Tatum said.

“… And by the way, one of the reasons I think we were so ready at the time and pretty decisive on March 11th [in suspending] is because we had spent two months before that trying to understand the virus. As you all know, we have a very significant presence and business in China, and when the virus hit China first, we have several offices in China, and our offices were affected by that. And so we actually started then to understand the virus, understand its impact…” he added.

Since restarting the season, no positive tests have been reported in the bubble.

While they have been successful in having the season to restart, Mr. Tatum underscored the need not to be complacent and the sporting community in general has to continue working together in dealing with the pandemic.

“There’s still a lot to learn about the virus. In this particular scenario, we’re not competing with each other, but we’re competing together to fight the coronavirus, and I think if there are learnings here that we can share with others so that we can create safe and healthy environments for athletes and for sport, we have to do it,” he said.

“We have to do it because I think that the world is a better place when there are sports, when there’s competition, and we have a collective responsibility to be able to do it in a safe and healthy way…”