MADRID (AP) — Spain is next to start playing professional basketball amid the coronavirus pandemic using a “bubble” format similar to the one planned by the NBA.
Spain’s main league, considered one of the world's best outside of the NBA, will resume Wednesday with the launch of a 12-team tournament playing in a single venue in the eastern city of Valencia. There will be 33 matches played without fans in a two-week span.
Germany resumed its league two weeks ago using a similar enclosed format in Munich, and the NBA is set to follow suit in late July with 22 teams playing at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida.
The 18-team Euroleague canceled its season in May as the pandemic prompted border restrictions in most European countries.
“Two months ago, it seemed crazy just to think about playing again,” Spanish league president Antonio Martín said. “Many people put in a lot of work and a lot of effort to make this happen. If it hadn’t been for this joint effort, nothing would have been possible. This is already a victory that deserves celebration.”
There will be tight health safety measures in place in Valencia with players and team members being constantly monitored. The nearly 600 people involved are assigned to one of four hotels. The training facilities and hotels are located within about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of each other, with everyone confined to that area.
The top 12 clubs in the standings when the league was suspended in mid-March have been divided into two groups of six for the final phase. Barcelona heads one group, and Real Madrid the other. The top two from each group advance. The single-match final is scheduled for June 30.
“Everything is new for everyone,” Baskonia coach Dusko Ivanovic said. “It could be a more interesting tournament, similar to a playoff. You can win the title in seven games.”
Defending champion Real Madrid was one of the teams directly affected by the pandemic when American forward Trey Thompkins tested positive for the coronavirus after a match played in Milan. The positive result in March prompted Madrid’s basketball and soccer teams to enter quarantine because they shared some facilities at the club’s training center.
“We are in this bubble to avoid the risk of infections,” Real Madrid point guard Sergio Llull said. “It’s strange, and mentally it requires a big effort, but we’re going to do it so that everything goes well and people can enjoy basketball again from their homes.”
The Spanish basketball league said the games in this final tournament will be broadcast in 125 countries, including the United States.
The Spanish soccer league resumed without fans last week with matches played across the country.
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