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23/06/2020
Asia
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What we should know about the CBA's return to action

DONGGUAN (China) - This past Saturday marked the return to action for the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) after much careful planning in between their suspended play since January 24, 2020, due to the COVID-19 situation.

The league-leading Guangdong Southern Tigers normally would have locked their playoff spots by now in typical circumstances but since the league took a pause, they’ve had to wait.  It took a bit longer than they expected, but the Southern Tigers were finally able to secure their 25th trip to the CBA playoffs when the league returned to action.

The CBA season resumed with all 20 teams back in action, playing under specific restrictions that are set in place to not jeopardize the health of the players and those involved. The teams will play out the remaining games of the regular season in a span of 15 days up until July 4 with schedules featuring from 4-6 games daily.

They will also be playing these games competing in two allocated venues.

The northern city of Qingdao will host 10 teams (Qingdao, Xinjiang, Liaoning, Zhejiang, Beijing, Guangsha, Nanjing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Bayi) while the other 10 teams (Guangdong, Shandong, Shanxi, Beijing, Jilin, Fujian, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Sichuan, and Tianjin) will play in the southern city of Dongguang. The top 12 teams will then play in a shortened postseason which includes knock-out elimination games in the first two rounds.

These games are held behind closed doors with no spectators. However, team jerseys and mascots were “seated” in the stands of the stadiums in Qingdao and Dongguang with videos and audio played to replicate some of the usual in-game atmospheres.

The format is a result of proposals submitted and revised between the league and officials to clarify disease control measures. All players had to be tested many days prior to the league resuming action as well.

Before all games, players coaches, and league officials stand in silence as a symbol of respect for those who lost their lives to COVID-19, especially those working in the front line. According to Yao Ming as per China Daily, this pre-game tribute is meant as a reminder of the efforts and sacrifices that were made for the league to return.

Defending champions Guangdong remain as a top contender to win it all this season, especially with the luxury of still having Sonny Weems on the roster. Only a handful of teams managed to field foreign players as the league resumed action with the likes of Weems, Jeremy Lin (Beijing), Hamed Haddadi (Tongxi), and OJ Mayo (Liaoning) among those who will be playing in the latter part of the season. These players have remained in China throughout most of the COVID-19 situation, while other foreign players are unable to or not willing to return to China. For a player like Weems, it was a no-brainer as to why he stayed in China and is excited for the return of the league.

"Just me wanting the championship," Weems said, as per China Daily. "It's my duty to help this team to win the championship ... that's the most important thing. We are a family. If they are going through something, we are going to go through the things together."

For teams that are at a disadvantage of not having foreign players for whatever reason, the CBA expanded a rule which limits the playing time and number of foreign players on the court for the opposing teams that have that upper hand.

FIBA