While the COVID-19 tests from Florida still come in with alarming numbers, NBA teams began to convene at their practice sites around the country, setting the stage for the league’s testing for entry into the bubble-like environment in Orlando.
The plan to resume the NBA season, which was suspended by the onset of the coronavirus after the games of March 11, already has been approved by the Board of Governors and the National Basketball Association Players Association. And ESPN reported Tuesday that the NBA and NBPA finalized the revisions to the Collective Bargaining Agreement for the Orlando restart to the season.
But finalizing the agreement hardly makes it a simple path back to the court. The best-laid plans of the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver may be finalized and approved, but the virus has proved to have little interest in the planning.
Already the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays and a number of college sports teams have had to shut down their workout facilities because of outbreaks of the virus among players and staff.
The NBA has tried to plot out every contingency, sealing as tightly as possible ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Disney. But with no vaccine and so many unanswered questions, there is also a clear realization that the virus can slip into the slightest crack in the system.
It is why Silver cautioned the players weeks ago that a positive test would not stop the season. And in the document outlining health and safety protocols sent to teams last week, it included a warning that, “The occurrence of a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the resumption of the 2019-20 season.”
But before the league begins the process of bringing the players in three weeks from now for the start of the training camp on-site, they are assembling at their own practice facilities (with the exception of the Toronto Raptors, who are already at a facility in Fort Myers, Florida) and the cautious steps have not allowed them to avoid positive tests as they arrive.
ESPN reported that Denver’s star center Nikola Jokic tested positive in Serbia and has been asymptomatic, but his entry back into the United States has been delayed. The Arizona Republic reported that two Phoenix Suns players have tested positive and ESPN reported that a Western Conference playoff team has had four positive tests in the last few weeks.
The league agreed to put in place an enhanced insurance policy that covers career-ending injuries related to the virus. As more is being learned about the virus, the NBA already has put in its protocols that any player who tests positive must shut down all workouts for two weeks and then submit to a cardiac screening.
Players have until Wednesday to declare that they would opt out of joining play in the bubble. Some players have already declared that they would not participate, although it has been for the injury risk rather than the two biggest concerns right now — the risk of infection and the social justice protests going on right now.