The WNBA has delayed the start of its 24th season because of the coronavirus pandemic, commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Friday.
The league was supposed to begin training camps April 26 and open the regular season May 15.
"While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats," Engelbert said in a statement, "our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees."
The WNBA will still conduct its draft on April 17, as the league announced last week. The draft, which will begin at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN), will be held "virtually," with Engelbert announcing picks from New York and top prospects taking part remotely. Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu is expected to be the No. 1 overall selection by the New York Liberty.
"We continue to send our thoughts and prayers to our players, fans, and all of those in the community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic," Engelbert said, "and are grateful to those selfless health care workers and first responders who work tirelessly on the front lines."
Engelbert said last week that she thought the WNBA, as a smaller league, could be more "agile" with regard to schedule changes or anything else needed to start playing again. The WNBA has 12 teams and a 34-game regular season, with eight teams making the playoffs. There are single-elimination games for the first two rounds of the playoffs and then the best-of-five semifinals and Finals.
The WNBA had a monthlong break -- July 11 to Aug. 15 -- planned this year because of the Tokyo Olympics. But with the Summer Games postponed, the WNBA has a little more leeway in terms of potential rescheduling.
Engelbert said that whenever the WNBA does start, it will follow a strict protocol regarding the health and well-being of players, coaches and fans.
The Washington Mystics are the league's defending champions, having defeated the Connecticut Sun last year in a five-game Finals.
"We will get through this difficult time together and look forward to seeing our fans and defending our championship as soon as safely possible," Mystics coach and general manager Mike Thibault said. "In the meantime, we will continue to find other ways to stay connected as we encourage everyone to stay home and be safe."