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March 25, 2020

NBA odds: Betting market favors July return for pro basketball in America

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5_Sixers_Huddle_Richardson_Korkmaz_76ersvsCeltics_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid coaches up his teammates during a timeout against the Boston Celtics.

Rumblings from various media sources have speculated on early potential return dates for the NBA, and now you can put your money where your mouth is and bet on when the next NBA game will be held. Just don't expect that to do anything to actually accelerate the league's timeline. now has several different windows to bet on as the NBA's initial return date, and judging from the lines, they're settling in for an extended layoff:


Next NBA game played June 1st or sooner: Yes (+300), No (-500)

Next NBA game played July 1st or sooner: Yes (+140), No (-180)

Next NBA game played August 1st or sooner: Yes (-160), No (+120)

As in every other industry, there are no firm guidelines for a crisis of this magnitude. The best we can do is look at other impacted countries that are ahead of the United States on the pandemic timeline and try to use their return to action as a rough guideline domestically, and that doesn't lend hope for an early return.

In China, the Chinese Basketball Association shut down in late January with an initial plan to bring the league back around April 15th, roughly 11 weeks following the initial suspension of the league. But that plan has since changed, with ESPN's Brian Windhorst reporting Wednesday morning that the CBA would not even be attempting to resume until May. That adds up to what might turn into a four-month layoff, with many American players like Jeremy Lin and Lance Stephenson stuck in limbo waiting for the league to re-open for business.

A four-month timeline from the conclusion of the last NBA game (March 8th) played would push the league's restart into the middle of the summer — and that assumes that they are able to get players in for practices in the weeks prior, which is no certainty from where we sit today.

That comparison, of course, assumes that an American sports league can (or would) follow the same timeline as a league from a fundamentally different country. It's impossible to know whether the outbreak numbers coming out of China are legitimate in the first place, and the authoritarian rule makes it so decisions by the government are received as mandates, not options, on top of systems they have in place (e.g. data tracking) that Americans would not submit to.

Discussions between PhillyVoice and Sixers and league sources over the last week have not turned up any new information on when the NBA might return, except to say most projections have ended up on the conservative end of the timeline. With practice facilities closed indefinitely, people around the league expect the first step will be the simple task of just getting their teams back in the gym, with plenty still to figure out regarding fan attendance, game locations, etc.

The odds are slightly different for two more American sports leagues that are currently on hiatus.


June 1st or sooner: Yes (+275), No (-450)

July 1st or sooner: Yes, (EVEN), No (-140)

August 1st or sooner: Yes (-225), No (+160)


June 1st or sooner: Yes (+300), No (-500) 

July 1st or sooner: Yes (+160), No (-225)

August 1st or sooner: Yes (-180), No (+140)

I'm a gambling man myself, but if I had any advice to offer during this trying time, it would probably be to take the money you're thinking about using to gamble and just, you know, don't do that with the country virtually shut down. 
But I'm not your boss or your accountant, so do with these numbers what you will.

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