Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver held a town hall with league office workers on Monday in which he and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum maintained a clear message: the season will continue, even with the recent increase positive COVID-19 tests among many teams.
The league and the players’ union are determined to bring this 2020-2021 season to fruition without stopping, working together over the weekend and until Tuesday to issue new, stricter health and safety guidelines for reduce physical contact with players and team members.
“They will try to gain power over the next few weeks,” said a senior team official.
And the sentiment many fans have shared that the league’s new protocols are more for optics than anything else was echoed by several team members contacted by B / R.
When the NBA decided to launch this campaign in December, it was with the idea that vaccinated fans could be in arenas as early as the spring. We are seeing a multibillion dollar spinning wheel, a spinning wheel that would require tremendous effort to get back on track if the timing were to stop. It took the NBA four months to restart the 2019-20 season, and the hailed success of that experiment in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Also resulted in huge lost profits.
Many team leaders and league officials are optimistic that the recent NBA spike, which saw several games postponed due to teams’ inability to field a full roster, has made many more players. ineligible due to contact tracing, not actual positive testing. This seems to be the main reason why only stricter guidelines were released, rather than anything of more substantial measure, despite the Celtics, Heat, Sixers, Mavericks, Wizards and Bulls all sporting significantly reduced rosters due known contact with people who have tested positive.
Elise Amendola / Associated Press
It remains to be seen, of course, how the NBA would react if the number of positive COVID-19 tests increased as the schedule moved back to February. But league sources suggest that there has been very little discussion of potential doomsday scenarios.
Discussions to expand the rosters beyond the current 17-player limit have failed. One of the main goals of any conversation since the restart of the 2019-20 season has been to keep the size of team travelers as small as possible.
And while some organizations have backed the introduction of a concept similar to last summer’s MLB ‘Taxi Team’ setup – where teams could essentially carry extra players for road trips. – there was also a significant retreat from this idea. ” More players means more COVID risk, ”Dallas Mavericks Governor Mark Cuban told Bleacher Report in an email.
A large chunk of players with the skill level and availability to serve as potential replacements will head to the February G League bubble near Orlando.
This irony is quite palpable. And where these new, stricter health and safety guidelines aim to prevent players from intermingling before and after the game – they’ll be limited to touching elbows or banging their fists – these athletes sweat and breathe on top of each other for the 48 minutes between these meet-and-greet. “The new protocols are a joke,” an assistant coach told B / R.
Players will no longer be allowed to have guests in their Hotel rooms, but why were they allowed in the first place? Now, during flights, teams have to make a seating plan where players are assigned the seats closest to those they are sitting next to on the bench for games. It is curious to know why this simple logic was not already applied.
The NBA season, alas, continues. While the Boston and Chicago game on Tuesday night has been postponed, six more competitions will be in action. And until an even greater health risk arises, there doesn’t seem to be any other change anytime soon.