The calendar has now turned to May, and we’re closing in on two months since the NBA last played a game. As time drags on, the future of the 2019-20 season is still up in the air, and there are major hurdles the league still needs to clear in order to return to action.
With the coronavirus pandemic still wreaking havoc on the country, the league seems to have focused its attention on creating a bubble environment that would effectively quarantine teams in one location until the season could be completed. They were offered, according to a report from The New York Times, and have also , per The Athletic.
Something along those lines seems like the only way forward if the NBA is determined to crown a champion for 2020, but even those plans don’t come without plenty of challenges. As some GMs have noted, there are , debates about who would be allowed into the bubble and on top of that the league will need access to thousands of tests.
In regards to those last two issues, Brian Windhorst of ESPN offered some important details that shed light on the league’s plans. He reported that creating a bubble that excludes family members is not on the table right now, and added that the league may need up to 100,000 tests to maintain a safe environment.
Most of what the NBA is working on right now is trying to get their teams back into gyms so they can start talking about the season. The draft could come in the fall, it depends on how things go.
Testing, testing, testing. I know (Adrian Wojnarowski) said 15,000 tests, the experts I talked to for this story said it could be closer to 100,000 because you have to keep an eye on the testing. And right now, the NBA is not interested at all in taking any tests that would go away from somebody who wants a test or would need a test. They sent a memo to their teams last night instructing them, unless your players or staff are sick, do not even seek a test. And here we are, six weeks off the NBA playing its last game, and they’re no closer to where they need to be in terms of being tested.
We did a lot of work, and we determined in talking to dozens of people that you’d need 1,500 people, from hotel maids to scoreboard operators, to the coaches and players themselves. Here’s the issue, Sage — the NBA is not interested right now in a bubble where they could not bring their families in. League sources and officials told me that.
So without the testing, which you’d need to get everybody in the bubble, and without the expansive testing that you’d need to get the family in, the NBA is not ready to go there right now. They’re not in a rush, and that is guiding their way forward.
While preventing family members from making the trip would make the logistics much easier to figure out, it’s a lot to ask of the players and staff members. Depending on what the schedule would look like, it would require them to leave their families behind for upwards of a couple of months, which would not only be difficult on an emotional level but potentially not possible depending on personal situations.
Then, of course, there’s the testing issue. Until a vaccine is approved, experts agree that mass testing and contact tracing is necessary to combat the virus and get the country to get back to some semblance of normalcy. The problem is that tests just aren’t widely available right now.
Until they are, it would be a very bad look for the league if it secured thousands of tests — possibly upwards of six figures — to give to professional athletes so they could play basketball. In fact, that worry has led the NBA to tell teams theyunless one of their players or staff members are exhibiting symptoms.
Considering the circumstances, it’s not hard to see why the NBA is still stuck in wait and see mode. Right now, a lot of things are simply out of their control.
One final interesting note from Windhorst at the end of his segment is that the league isn’t in a rush to come up with a plan to finish the season. That means that even though commissioner Adam Silver said they wouldn’t be able to make any decisions until at least May, it could be much longer until we know something definitive.