NBA worried but ‘resolute’ about restart as virus spreads

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DALLAS MAVERICKS owner Mark Cuban. The Mavericks are one of the teams included in the 22-team restart plan of the NBA in July. (Reuters/ Mike Blake/File Photo)

THE National Basketball Association is concerned about the growing number of coronavirus cases in Florida but intends to go ahead with its plan to restart the season in a “bubble” in the state, ESPN reported Sunday.

Florida has experienced record number of daily diagnoses of COVID-19 the past three days, with Saturday’s number of new cases at 4,049 — a single-day record. The NBA plans to host players at The Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, where 22 teams with playoff chances will finish the regular season. The postseason will follow at the same site.

ESPN said commissioner Adam Silver recently held a conference call with NBA team executives and addressed the Florida outbreak. The report said Silver was “resolute but somber” and was confident that keeping players together in the bubble would help prevent coronavirus outbreaks.

The league is “closely monitoring the data in Florida and Orange County and will continue to work collaboratively with the National Basketball Players Association, public health officials and medical experts regarding our plans,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.

Orlando, located in Orange County in Central Florida, hasn’t been hit as hard by the coronavirus as South Florida. Still, players expressed concern that non-NBA employees, such as the housekeeping or dining staff, could introduce the virus into the bubble, according to the report.

“While we take some solace in knowing our players will not travel commercially to get to Orlando, that access to the campus is severely limited and, of course, all of the other health and safety protocols in place, the numbers will keep our attention,” Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, told ESPN. “If necessary to add further restrictions respecting those third parties having access to the campus, we will seek to implement them.”

On Tuesday, the league issued a 113-page guide that outlined health protocols and other procedures that will be in place in Florida. The teams are expected to arrive in the second week of July for an abbreviated training camp, with play resuming July 30.

The league has been on hiatus since March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. — Reuters