The NBA is already gearing up for their return after the smashing success of their season they finished in the bubble in Orlando, Florida over the summer. The players association and the league agreed on rules and formats for the 2020-21 season that will tip off on Dec. 22.

The teams will play 72 games each, which is 10 less than a normal season, which is due to the later start date. The season will run until May 16 tentatively. The league will once again have a play-in tournament with the teams with the seventh through tenth highest win percentages in the regular season in each conference playing to claim the eighth and final spot in the playoffs.

The bubble is gone, as teams will be allowed to play in their home arenas, with the exception of the Toronto Raptors who have to begin their season in Florida due to travel restrictions into Canada into the United States due to our high COVID-19 numbers.

It will be a major test as we have seen with the chaos that has been college football and now college basketball seasons. The league recently released a 139-page “Health and Safety Protocols” memo that breaks down every minute detail regarding the season. Even though commissioner Adam Silver and his staff have been far and wide better at handling these details since the beginning, it still is inevitable that the coronavirus will wreak havoc at some point.

No matter how well prepared they are, no matter how careful the players, coaches and staff are, it is inevitable that there will be someone, more than likely someone outside of the league, that doesn’t follow basic protocols and infects players and causes games to be postponed.

Everyone will self-quarantine and tested regularly before returning to their teams, and have been given all of the rules that they are to abide by. But then you have the issue of players being allowed to live at home during the season, so the league has to take that into consideration as well. You basically have to be able to track those individuals as well to be able to conduct contact tracing and ensure the health and safety of those in the league.

If a player has a family or household member experience symptoms or test positive, the player may not return until a review can be done and the team physician deems it ok to return.

Travel is another big part in the return because this will be the first time the league travels on a regular basis now that the bubble is gone. There are strict rules about what the teams travel parties are allowed to do and where they can go to limit the possibility of contracting the virus.

Here we go again, with another game of how long can the NBA last in the world of the coronavirus. The NBA got it right the first time, and Adam Silver seems to have a grasp on things much more than the other commissioners, so I have hope that the NBA will be able to have a successful season with minor interruptions. But in the age of COVID-19 we know one thing is for sure, nothing is certain.

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him jkirkland@gazettevirginian.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV