DENVER — With a proposed return date of July 31, the NBA is coming back.

Question is, what the heck is taking so long?

While the NBA, NHL and MLB dilly dally around with more committees, votes and requirements than a suburban school board, the English Premier League and Italy’s Serie A are mere days from restarting. On June 20, in a northern region of Italy crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, Parma Calcio hosts Torino FC in the Serie A debut. Or, if you’re like me and can’t wait to see a despondent population witness a tangible return to life, we’ll have EPL soccer on the tube June 17 — two weeks from now.

Meantime, the NBA and NHL are focused on late-July tipoffs and puck drops. MLB owners and players continue to fight over money, no date in sight. What’s taking so long?

Maybe now is not the time to talk common sense. Two weeks ago protesting the state’s forced restaurant closures was vilified by media as a strict no-no: Think about Grandma! These days you flip on social media and protesting alongside even larger groups of strangers is the only righteous way to live. Which one is it?

Anyway, let’s check with the experts. Is that still the move? Let’s see how Europe’s coronavirus numbers compare to ours: Italy has the second-worst case-fatality rate on the planet, England the third. The U.S.? Much further down that heartbreaking list at ninth, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins. Any day now, U.S. sports leagues.

You know what would be cool right about now? One step, any step, toward reducing the suddenly massive unemployment rate and improving mental health from coast to coast. I’m no doctor, but it stands to reason being locked down for months through government stay-at-home orders inflamed tensions that turned a worthy cause of honoring George Floyd into vandalizing our cities.

The conversations between law enforcement agencies and our black communities aren’t going to vanish when sports return. If anything, the socially conscious NBA will be certain to amplify those necessary talking points. Guarantee it.

“Sports is really one of the only things in our country that bring us together,” Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said via Altitude TV.

OK, so here’s how the NBA’s return would look, according to an ESPN report Wednesday: 22 teams in play (13 from the Western Conference, nine from the Eastern Conference), eight regular-season games to finalize the seeds, a possible play-in tournament for the No. 8 seeds ... and a playoff bracket, seeded 1 through 8.

The NBA's board of governors will approve the proposal Thursday, ESPN reported.

The Nuggets are 43-22 in the No. 3 spot in the West — 1.5 games back of the Clippers, 1.5 clear of the Jazz. They are locked into the postseason with a first-round matchup likely coming against the Thunder (40-24), Rockets (40-24) or Mavericks (40-27). You want the Thunder or Mavs. Houston is a problem.

“Our guys are ready to play. Our guys are ready to make a real push for an NBA championship,” Connelly said via Altitude.

“We really believe we can win it all this year,” Connelly added.

ESPN said the new NBA schedule will be played without fans in Orlando at the Walt Disney World Resort — just a quick shuttle ride from Universal Studios. Guess when Universal Studios reopens to the general public? Friday. As in, this Friday.

The English Premier League season concludes July 25 — before the NBA's new season begins.

What's taking so long?

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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