With the majority of the sports world still on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, leagues around the country are trying to come up with the best plan to try and resume or start their seasons while providing safe spaces for teams to be able to do so.
Last week, the WNBA’s plan for a potential start to the 2020 season — which was supposed to tip off on May 15 — started to come into focus a bit more, giving teams, players and fans a glimmer of hope that live basketball could be on the horizon.
On June 3, Doug Feinberg of AP Sports reported the WNBA was starting to come up with a complete plan for starting the season, noting the league was planning on holding games at one central location. The two locations reported as top candidates were MGM Resorts in Las Vegas and IMG Academy in Florida.
A few days later, Mechelle Voepel of ESPN broke the news that the WNBA had proposed a 22-game regular season plan, with the schedule tipping off on July 24 at IMG Academy. Voepel added the playoffs would likely end in October, although details are still being worked out and the players still have to agree to the proposed plan.
According to the reported proposal, the 22-game season would be 14 games shorter than the previously planned 36-game WNBA season. Players, according to ESPN, would be paid 60 percent of their normal salaries.
IMG Academy, which is located in Bradenton, Florida, is about 100 miles away from Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando where the NBA will return to play on July 31. The facility consists of four basketball courts to accommodate the 12 WNBA teams and a max of 144 players in total.
Although a proposal and plan is on the table and still in the works, full details and final decisions have yet to be made, according to the New York Times. They reported over the weekend that players are still considering their options and any counterproposals or agreements could take place this week at the earliest.
What the proposal means for the Lynx
When it comes to the Minnesota Lynx specifically, the proposal of a potential season and the resumption of basketball potentially taking place in July is great news. Not only for them, but for the entire league and its fans.
In the middle of May, Lynx forward Napheesa Collier said in an interview with Zone Coverage that she didn’t mind where or when the WNBA season took place, as long as they were able to ultimately get back on the floor in a safe yet quick manner.
“At this point, no matter how it looks, we just want to get on the court,” Collier told Zone Coverage. “I’m sure there aren’t going to be any fans, which is a huge bummer. A huge part of the game is playing in front of fans and not being able to do that is going to kind of feel like a closed scrimmage. It’s been so long, we just want to get on the court no matter what it looks like.”
The idea of a bubble or central location is an interesting one for Minnesota, which has often times gotten a much-needed boost from its home fans at Target Center during the season. It appears the Lynx won’t have that home court advantage for the 2020 campaign if it indeed takes place in Florida, but that’s a disadvantage that will be parallel with the other 11 teams in the league.
“It would have a college feel, except even smaller because I’m sure we wouldn’t be able to leave that site. It’s not that ideal, because we wouldn’t be able to see our families and we wouldn’t have fans, but we just want sports and we want to play,” Collier said. “Even though it’s not ideal or what we want, it’s what would keep everyone safe and that is most important. Like I said, no matter how that looks, I think we are pretty much up for anything right now.”
If this was a previous year, the delayed start time to the season would have played in favor of the Lynx while holding one of the oldest rosters in the WNBA, allowing those players to rest even more and get their bodies ready for the upcoming schedule. This summer, that isn’t too big of a deal given the recent wave of youth that has entered the organization.
If the proposed date of July 24 does end up being opening night for the WNBA, that timing could still play in Minnesota’s favor, but for another reason. Specifically, when it comes to potentially getting back a key piece to the team yet this summer.
At the end of May, guard Odyssey Sims was placed on the temporary inactive list to start the year. She was one of the four players left off the final 12-player roster, joining guards Linnae Harper (waived) and Erica Ogwumike (waived), and forward Jessica Shepard (full-season suspended list).
After giving birth to her first child, Jaiden, in April, Sims has been working on trying to return for the WNBA year and could be activated at any point if she isn’t ready for the start of the season. When it comes to the proposed July 24 tip-off date, that could possibly buy Sims more time to try and make a return following an All-Star campaign in her first season with the Lynx in 2019.
Getting Sims for the start of the season or at least at some point during the summer would no doubt help Minnesota, much like she helped last year when she often times led the offense along with Collier, Sylvia Fowles and others on the roster.
Like we have seen with other leagues around the country recently, return-to-play proposals and plans to be able to start their respective seasons are underway. And the WNBA is just the latest league to submit a proposal to its players to try and kick off a season this summer.
Ultimately, whenever and whenever the season does end up taking place, plans are being worked out for the WNBA to make its return and allow fans to finally be able to watch the league yet this summer.