Before the NBA season began last month, Commissioner Adam Silver was asked on a conference call with reporters how the league might close again due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic like last March.
“I think we are prepared for individual cases,” said Silver. “Indeed, based on what we saw last season, based on watching other leagues operating outside the bubble, it seems somewhat inevitable. But we are prepared for any eventuality.”
Less than three weeks later, NBA preparation is being tested.
The Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Denver nuggets with only seven healthy players after Seth Curry’s positive test on Thursday evening, which ultimately led to four of his teammates – Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton and Vincent Poirier – Be kept out of contact tracing as part of the league’s health and safety protocols.
Philadelphia’s available players kept things close for half a while. Ultimately, however, reliant on newbies for difficult minutes – Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe and Dakota Mathias Everyone played over 40 – turned out to be too much to overcome. However, the question for the Sixers is how often do they have to play this way.
“I look at our statistics sheet and we have [three guys] at 40-plus [minutes]and it couldn’t be avoided, “said Rivers.” Now we’ll play again in two days and then again. This is my concern. We have to be very careful how we navigate the next week. “
Philadelphia has Sunday off, but then hosts them Atlanta Hawks on Monday, followed by a home-and-home with the intense heat. While the NBA has established a specific return-to-play path for players who test positive, the rules that apply to players identified as close contacts are less clear, as players who are considered close contacts are miss different lengths of time.
The Houston Rockets The season opener was postponed because most of the team was unavailable between a combination of positive testing and contact tracing. However, they played their next game with multiple players who weren’t there while they were completing the league’s quarantine process, and no other games were postponed, even if that meant Philadelphia was playing with a skeleton roster. And the Sixers aren’t the only team facing a growing body shortage.
The Boston Celtics have seven players in the logs from Saturday night before their home game against Heat Sunday. The Washington Wizards played three games in the past week – against them Brooklyn networks, the 76s and the Celtics – against teams where several players are missing due to league protocols.
“We do everything the league gives us, all the memos and logs. We do our best,” Brooks said before the game against Boston on Friday night. “We will continue to do that. Everyone was negative, and that’s a good thing.”
Star Guard after warming up Bradley Beal was removed from the list because he was viewed as close contact with Tatum on Friday night. The two friends, who share a coach, guarded each other for important parts of the game and then had a conversation on the pitch.
Getting Beal drawn minutes before a game isn’t the only close call for the NBA in recent days. Curry sat on Philadelphia’s bench in the first quarter of Thursday’s Brooklyn loss before officially testing positive and leaving the arena. Memphis grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas played in the first half and then got pulled out of the game against the Nets Friday night at half time because of the logs, although coach Taylor Jenkins later said he had not tested positive.
“The numbers are increasing,” said Heat trainer Erik Spoelstra on Saturday evening. “This is the reality. We are determined to move on in our industry, and we do it with the best of science and compliance with protocols.
“But ultimately we are not in control.”
In those first three weeks of the season, the league learns that the hard way. A team official asked, half-jokingly, ahead of the season if they’d go on a road trip and leave players in town after town. In those first three weeks, two teams – the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks – had to leave players behind and, in another case, employees from the LA Clippers had to drive home from Salt Lake City. The Toronto Raptors, who are playing in Tampa, Fla. this season, reversed course because fans attended the games this week because the virus was on a spike.
These are all the things, as Silver alluded, both Major League Baseball and the NFL had to deal with in an attempt to end their summer and fall seasons, respectively. However, the NBA is trying to do this with far fewer players – and COVID-19 is raging across the country worse than ever. Over 4,000 people die of the disease on Thursday alone.
“I think we’ll see that all year round,” said Suns coach Monty Williams on Saturday when asked about the situation in Philadelphia.
“I’m sure the league is prepared for a possible failure if it gets too bad.”
During that preseason press conference, Silver was specifically asked what it would take to end the season like in March.
“There are no fixed numbers,” said Silver. “I think if we found a situation where our logs weren’t working, meaning that not only had we had some cases of COVID, but witnessed spread between teams or possibly even to another team, it would be us cause.” suspend the season.
“The decision tree that we are going to look at in relation to the season break is strictly a health and safety tree. If at any point we no longer believe the game is responsible, we will stop the season.”
The NBA saw how successful their experiment with a bubble was last summer, but Silver ruled out doing one for an entire season, or even a large portion of it, as it put the mental and emotional strains on those there . Instead, the NBA is moving forward and playing the season in home markets so that members of the league can be with their families and live as normally as possible amid the pandemic.
While recognizing that health and safety were at the forefront of the league’s decision-making process, Silver recognized the economic realities of the situation and said that “tens of thousands” of jobs depend on the league to keep operating.
However, it didn’t take long to see just how difficult it will be for the NBA to go down that narrow road.
“I think the reality is we know this is rife right now,” said Brad Stevens, Celtics coach. “And we’re doing everything we can to prevent that from happening, like I said, and it’s still going to get into the league through travel companies, so we’re all taking some risk. And I think we’re accepting that and at the same time trusting the Responsible people have health and safety as their top priority. If it gets too much, it is up to someone else who is an expert to decide. “