NBA commissioner Adam Silver reiterated Wednesday that the league's preference is to have teams play next season in their home markets, with fans in attendance.
He clarified, however, that could mean a smaller number of spectators, as he doesn't expect a vaccine for COVID-19 to be widely available when the NBA resumes play early next year.
"Based on everything I've read, there's almost no chance there will be a vaccine at least that is widely distributed before we start the next season," Silver said at his annual NBA Finals news conference.
"I do not see the development of a vaccine as a prerequisite," he added. "My sense is that with rapid testing, it may not be that we'll have 19,000 people in the building - we'll see - but that with appropriate protocols in terms of distancing and with advanced testing, you will be able to bring fans back into arenas."
Silver said last week his "best guess" is the 2020-21 season will commence in January.
Some NFL teams have taken a similar approach by allowing smaller crowds into stadiums, though it ultimately depends on each city's local guidelines. Silver recognizes the NBA would be dealing with the same issues, including regulations in Canada, in which travel from the United States is currently restricted to only those who are "essential."
"Again, it's early days," Silver said. "To the earlier question about what Canada's going to do, we also have to deal with state by state and, in some cases, city by city restrictions on how many people can gather. ... I'm hopeful that based on what we're learning, based on protocols, based on testing, we will be able to have games with fans next season, prior to full distribution of a vaccine."