The NBA’s priority since the season shut down in March has been finding a way to get its best teams back on the floor so a champion could be crowned. They have done so with their planned Disney bubble, but that left the question of what to do with the league’s worst teams. Subjecting them to a nine-month offseason seemed unfair from a competitive standpoint, and if possible, allowing them to play extra games could help them make up some of the lost revenue of their seasons ending.
So, in the interest of solving those problems, the NBA is closing in on the creation of a second bubble in Chicago, where the eight teams that aren’t making the trip to Disney will hold mini training camps and games for an undefined competitive purpose, according to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan. They are currently targeting September to do so, and Wintrust Arena, which is connected to a hotel, is under consideration as a venue, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson.
Nothing is definitive yet, and players would need to sign off on the idea before a second bubble could be formed. Without the carrot of the postseason to offer, players may be less enthused about taking the risks that come with playing basketball during a pandemic. NBPA executive director Michele Roberts is reportedly insisting that the same health protocols be taken in Chicago that are being taken in Orlando in the interest of player safety,
Still, just as players have opted out of Orlando, there will likely be players who sit out in Chicago. The games, to this point, have no competitive stakes beyond preparation for next season, and it’s not as though top-tier veterans play in Summer League. A team like the Golden State Warriors, for instance, would seem unlikely to send Klay Thompson, who is coming off of a torn ACL. The stakes are low, but the risk is high.
But for those who do decide to play, Chicago could prove important to the continued development of younger teams. Lottery teams need all of the game reps that they can get, and taking nine months off could have thrown a major wrench in their long-term plans. Now, at least, they may have an opportunity to get their players on the court before next season.