In America the past week, the average daily number of new COVID-19 cases exceeded 200,000. This is horrifying. It’s also very, very different from what the NBA experienced when the “Disney Bubble” happened months ago.
Last July when the NBA season resumed, 22 of the league’s 30 teams returned to Orlando, Florida. From the bubble’s first regular season game on July 30 until the last day on October 11 when the L.A. Lakers defeated the Miami Heat, not a single person inside the bubble tested COVID-19 positive.
Incredible. That’s at least 73 days involving hundreds of players, coaches, referees, officials, hotel staff — and not a one COVID-19 case.
The 2020 NBA Bubble was remarkable for many episodes. The near-stoppage of the season when the Milwaukee Bucks and the other teams protested the shooting of Jacob Blake. The Clippers’ loss to the Nuggets despite the 3-1 lead. LeBron and AD’s bromance that resulted in an “easy” championship win for the Lakers. Add one more statistic — zero coronavirus cases — to the many significant moments in the “Orlando Bubble.” That’s the 2019-2020 season.
Yesterday, the first pre-season games of the 2020-2021 season started. This time, there won’t be a strict bubble. Although spectators are disallowed from watching their favorite teams, the players will fly to various cities and be exposed to the public (hotels, buses, airports).
Will we experience another scenario with zero cases throughout the 72-game regular season (reduced from the usual 82 games)? Absolutely not. It’s a guarantee that several NBA players will get infected during the NBA season that will start on Dec. 22 and end in July.
What are some of the new protocols with the NBA season?
First, if a player tests positive, he has two choices: be inactive for at least 10 days since the first positive test or onset of symptoms, or he has to get two negative PCR tests (at least 24 hours apart).
Another ruling states, “Any player who tests positive, even if asymptomatic, will not be allowed to exercise for a minimum of 10 days and then must be monitored in individual workouts for an additional two days.”
Teams are allowed a maximum of only 45 people when they travel. There will be an anonymous tip number that anyone can call to report possible violations of the safety protocols.
One policy disallows team personnel from visiting bars, clubs, gyms, spas or pools, or from participating in social gatherings with more than 15 people.
The NBA has anticipated that positive cases will be reported. But they’ve also agreed that the entire season won’t be shut down simply because of one or two cases. This means that the league has to manage these situations as efficiently as possible.
The good news: the Pfizer vaccine has been approved in the U.S. Considering that there are only 510 players in the league (17 players x 30 teams), the NBA officials will request for the players to be administered first. I’m sure we’ll see photos of Steph, Kyrie, Giannis and the other NBA stars getting that vaccine soon.