After nearly five months of suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Chinese Basketball Association will return June 20, after government health and athletic officials gave the final approval.
The 20 teams will be divided equally and play in two cities. All games will be played in empty arenas.
Under the plan, 10 teams -- Qingdao, Xinjiang, Liaoning, Zhejiang, Beijing, Guangsha, Nanjing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Bayi -- will compete in the northern coastal city of Qingdao. The other 10 -- Guangdong, Shandong, Shanxi, Beikong, Jilin, Fujian, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Sichuan and Tianjin -- will play in the southern city of Dongguan, one of the host cities for last year's FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Based on the schedule for the next phase, the teams will close out the regular season during the 15-day window from June 20 to July 4, with each day featuring four to six games.
The CBA's return comes after months of discussions among the league, local government officials, health experts and the country's athletic governing body. Since the league was halted in late January ahead of China's Lunar New Year break, the return date has been postponed several times because of the country's intense battle against the pandemic.
In early May, CBA president Yao Ming went on national broadcaster CCTV and presented three plans to restart competition: finish the season using the original schedule, play a truncated season or jump right to the finals. But that proposal was sent back by officials, who asked for more details on the plans' disease control measures, according to Chinese media reports.
The breakthrough arrived at the end of May. As the pandemic began to ease, officials asked the CBA to submit a another plan, which finally got the green light.
In recent days, teams have been working with the league to conduct coronavirus tests for players. As of now, all players are getting ready for June 20, though some teams might be without their players from other countries, such as U.S. citizens who can't make it back due to travel restrictions or don't plan to return.
Other teams, such as Jeremy Lin's Beijing, Sonny Weems' Guangdong and O.J. Mayo's Liaoning, will enjoy a certain advantage since their stars have been practicing with them for some time.