In the last week, several players around the league have been held out due to health and safety protocols due to coronavirus exposures, and after Seth Curry of the Philadelphia 76ers tested positive, it put multiple teams in difficult positions. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated wonders if it may be time to return to the bubble. League Commissioner Adam Silver noted that the league does have several contingency plans.
“As you might imagine, we have lots of alternative plans in the drawers,” Silver said. “Depending on how this goes, we’ll look at other alternatives if we need to.”
The time for looking at alternatives may be here, as this week left those around the league confused as to why play hasn’t been put on pause with so many players out due to positive tests or contact tracing. There is also concern about the definition of “close contact” between players.
There has been some confusion. How the NBA defines “close contact” is one area. Following the lead of the Center for Disease Control, the league defines close contact as being within six feet of a COVID-positive person for at least 15 minutes. That means players who test positive are not identified as being in close contact with opponents. In Washington, where the Wizards’ last two games were against Philadelphia (a game Curry played 36 minutes in) and Boston (where Jayson Tatum, who will reportedly miss 10-14 days, a timeline associated with a positive test, played 35 minutes), some team officials wondered why there wasn’t a pause in the schedule to sort everything out.
It is unlikely that the NBA will ultimately return to a bubble, due to the cost involved.
Getting owners on board with another bubble could be challenging. “They don’t want to pay for it,” a high-ranking team executive told SI. Indeed, the cost of the Orlando bubble was in the neighborhood of $180 million. While the majority of teams are not bringing in gate revenue, the appetite for forking over millions to rebuild a secure environment is expected to be minimal.
The current hope, according to Mannix, is that vaccine rollout will improve and players and coaches will have access this spring. But in the meantime, those around the league have their doubts.
“It’s f------ crazy right now,” an NBA coach told SI. “Honestly, we go to work every day wondering who is going to be available.”
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