EVEN as the National Basketball Association was unveiling its schedule for the conclusion of the regular season, commissioner Adam Silver admitted Friday that the league’s “bubble” in central Florida can’t be made totally safe from the coronavirus pandemic.
The league is bringing 22 of its 30 teams to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida, for the resumption of play. Each team will compete in eight “seeding games” to complete the regular season, and the playoffs will follow, all at the Disney site.
Action will commence July 30 with the Utah Jazz opposing the New Orleans Pelicans, and the Los Angeles Clippers facing the Los Angeles Lakers in a doubleheader that will air on TNT.
The Jazz get to be one of the first teams returning after they were the team that prompted the NBA’s shutdown when All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus on March 11.
The season has been in hiatus since, but teams are set to arrive at the Disney campus for training by July 11.
Earlier Friday, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association finalized the protocols for the Disney “bubble.” The agreement comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are spiking in Florida.
Silver said on a conference call Friday, “We know that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future, and we are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus. No options are risk-free right now. …
“My ultimate conclusion is that we can’t outrun the virus, and that this is what we’re gonna be living with for the foreseeable future — which is why we designed the campus the way we did. And so it’s a closed network; and while it’s not impermeable, we are in essence protected from cases around us. At least, that’s the model.
“So for those reasons, we’re still very comfortable being in Orlando.”
The NBA and NBPA announced in a joint statement Friday that 16 of the 302 NBA players who were examined Tuesday tested positive for the coronavirus.
Silver added that Florida setting a record with around 9,000 new COVID-19 cases reported Friday is worrying.
“The level of concern has increased, not just because of the increased levels in Florida, but throughout the country,” he said.
“But since we designed our initial protocol, we are continuing to work with Disney on the testing of at least a subset of their employees that could potentially be in the same room as our players, and anyone else who’s tested daily on our campus. So we are satisfied that, once we work through those additional measures with Disney, we will continue to have a safe setting for us to resume our season.”
The commissioner wasn’t ready to reveal the NBA’s intentions should a COVID-19 outbreak occur among players.
The league also will address the recent calls for social justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
The regular-season games at the Disney complex will be held at three different courts. At least four games will be played every day after the July 30 doubleheader.
Once the regular season is complete, if the ninth-place team in either conference is within four games of the eighth-place team, a play-in competition would be held. The eighth-place team would need to beat the ninth-place team just once to advance, while the ninth-place team would need to defeat the eighth-place team twice to qualify.
Once the 16-team field is set, the playoffs will proceed is normal, with all matchups best-of-seven. — Reuters