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How will coronavirus impact the WNBA?

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In all likelihood, the WNBA won’t tip-off on time in May.

Napheesa Collier Named 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year - Press Conference Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The WNBA has postponed the start to its 2020 season due to the spread of Covid-19, the league announced on Friday. Training camps were set to begin on April 26, and the season was supposed to start May 15, but that’s no more. The league will hold a virtual draft on April 17.

The league did not offer a timeline to return, probably because there are a lot of questions that need to be answered beforehand.

So what is the WNBA likely working through in the interim?

First, the league had to figure out the draft

The WNBA hadn’t yet announced a venue for its 2020 draft, but it ultimately didn’t matter. The draft will continue on April 17, and it won’t be done in public. But there were questions bigger than the when and the where. Who will declare for the draft?

What will college seniors do?

The NCAA finally made the decision that it wouldn’t give college senior an extra year of eligibility, making the decision to go to the draft a straightforward one.

What will underclassmen do?

There was the question of underclassmen, and whether or not those with eligibility remaining would decide to play out their final college year, having just missed the ending to this one. The date for players to declare for the draft remains on April 7, and most have made their choice. UConn’s Megan Walker, Oregon’s Satou Sabally and Texas A&M’s Chennedy Carter are going to the draft, while Arizona’s Aari McDonald chose to stay in school.

There’s been no loophole made yet, but there is the chance a player declares for the draft, is selected, and then the 2020 WNBA season gets canceled while the college season (which tips again in November), returns. For now, it seems they wouldn’t be eligible to return to school.

Next, the 2020 season

The WNBA will need to hold some type of preseason training camp for teams to make final roster decisions, and it’ll need to schedule preseason games before the start of the season, whenever that might be. When and where those events can be booked is up in the air, and that’s before we even get to the regular-season calendar.

Scheduling a now-36-game season was hard enough for the WNBA in a normal year, but things could get a helluva lot more difficult should the NBA try and keep its season in tact. If the NBA tries to play its entire regular season out, that means rescheduling up to 18 games for some teams, and the playoffs. That begs the bigger question.

How will the NBA and WNBA co-exist for so long?

The NBA and WNBA seasons typically overlap for a couple of weeks, with the W starting its regular season during the final rounds of the NBA playoffs. But in this scenario, the seasons could overlap for close to the entirety of the W calendar. The NBA is prepping for the possibility of a mid-to-late June return as of now.

That strikes several questions. What happens if an NBA team has to play a game, or playoff series, in a home it shares with a WNBA franchise? The Lakers and Clippers would both need to play in Staples Center, which homes the Los Angeles Sparks. Same goes for the Brooklyn Nets, who are supposed to share the Barclays Center with the New York Liberty for the first time in 2020. The Minnesota Lynx and Minnesota Timberwolves also share the Target Center.

On top of arena scheduling, there’s also TV scheduling. Would the later NBA season mean replacing the already paltry amount of ESPN-aired WNBA games in favor of NBA ones? I’d hope not.

There’s so much to sort through, and a lot for the W is dependent on what the NBA does.

The postponed Olympics could provide relief.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics being postponed to 2021 will help the WNBA schedule a new season. The league has a month-long gap in its current schedule, which usually accounts for the dozens of players who represent their countries for the Olympics. That can now be used to schedule W games, if there is a season to be played.

But rescheduling the WNBA season will be no easy task, and one that’ll have to sit and wait until more information becomes available from other sports leagues.

Everything about the 2020 WNBA season has to remain fluid for now.