After what has felt like an eternity, the NBA is finally set to resume play next month at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
The NBA is targeting a slightly earlier date for the restart of the season in Orlando, sources tell ESPN: July 30.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 11, 2020
The return to play gives fans a chance to see their squads chase a championship, and the NBA is the first of the three major sports leagues that was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League included – to return to play
However, while it might be a welcome sight for NBA fans, there has been some pushback on the behalf of a group of NBA players, and reports are that as many as 4o to 50 players are hesitant to make the trip to Orlando and remain in an isolated bubble for potentially the next several months.
ESPN story on growing uncertainty among NBA players about entering Orlando bubble and allowances league plans to make for those deciding to stay home. https://t.co/tW7p8sKloH
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 10, 2020
According to NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the combination of the isolated nature of the NBA “bubble” in Orlando, as well as the lack of incentive for players on teams not favored to win a title, has a faction of players struggling to find a reason to return for the 2019-20 season.
As players have started to come to terms with the restrictive and isolated nature of the Orlando bubble — including no visitors until after the first round of the playoffs, nearly seven weeks after the opening of mid-July training camp — there has been increased dialogue about the prudence of restarting the season for a number of players, especially those on non-championship contenders, sources said.
Executives and coaches around the NBA have had significant concerns about how players will adapt to an environment unlike any they’ve ever experienced and how those hurdles could impact the sustained competitive drive for teams. Many have worried, too, especially on teams that aren’t title contenders, whether some players will start to seek avenues to bypass the resumption altogether.
The circumstances of the NBA “bubble” will be intense to say the least.
With the season set to begin on June 30, players, coaches and staff from 22 teams will live on-campus at the Disney World Resort and undergo daily coronavirus testing. No fans will be allowed to attend the final eight regular season games before the playoffs or any playoff games. Players will not be allowed to have guests – including family members – until after the first round of the playoffs, which looks to be at the end of August.
More timetables in Orlando: After second-round of playoffs — a maximum of 67 days — four teams will be left on the Disney campus.
After conference finals — a max of 82 days — there will be two finalists. https://t.co/WPVewtBPwo
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 11, 2020
Some players remain more concerned with the coronavirus pandemic than others, and further complicating the matter is the fact that while Disney employees will be subject to special rules and regulations, they will not be required to remain in the bubble for the duration of the NBA season, which NBC’s Tom Haberstroh expanded upon on Thursday.
“Disney workers have not been told to quarantine on campus, according to Eric Clinton, president of Disney’s labor union, United Here Local 362, which represents custodians and ride operators. There will be protocols in place, however. At this point, Disney staffers will be required to wear a mask at all times. Beginning June 14, per the latest labor agreement between Disney and the 38,000 members of Service Trades Council Union, Disney employees will be required to do a temperature check at a designated central location before proceeding to work. If the employee’s temperature is below 100.4, they will remain at work. If the employee’s temperature is at or above 100.4, the employee will be given “a cool-down period” and then undergo a recheck. If it remains at or above 100.4, the employee will be sent home.”
Key component of NBA restart plans as cases surge in surrounding area:
Disney support staff, as of now, will NOT be subject to NBA’s bubble protocols with daily testing/quarantine. They are free to go in and out of campus, per a Disney union official.https://t.co/unK5Fp38qD
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 12, 2020
So…there isn’t a bubble. https://t.co/ljLrsAbUhd
— JJ Redick (@jj_redick) June 12, 2020
In response to the news that certain players are against arriving at the bubble, the NBA has said that teams can use substitution players if needed, and if any player in the bubble contracts the virus, teams can replace them.
In addition, players that do not join the bubble will not be paid for the games they miss, but they will not face consequences beyond that.
Former NBA center Kendrick Perkins spoke on the situation on ESPN’s The Jump on Thursday, saying he doesn’t faulting the players who are opposed to showing up in Orlando due to the health risks.
“You can’t knock a guy … for not wanting to go and play and participate because right now I think that the coronavirus has been overshadowed by the death of George Floyd, and civil rights, and the protesting. The coronavirus is still here, cases are still rising, people are still dying. Just think about it, one of our NBA brothers Karl Antony-Towns lost his mother to coronavirus. I can’t be mad at any player that wants to stay home and not participate during these trying times.”
.@WojESPN reports 40-50 players are pushing back on going to the Orlando campus. On teams that aren’t realistically playing for a title anyway, once a few guys say they won’t come, will that domino into even more players not wanting to go? pic.twitter.com/5vjEnMwWQO
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 11, 2020
The isolation of the bubble is also a major concern of come players, who will be away from their families for at least a month and a half.
Shannon Sharpe likened the isolation to NFL training camp, but also understands it is an even higher level of isolation than he has experienced before in his football career.
“I liked being secluded, I liked going to training camp. Now this is going to be extra, extra secluded because basically they are saying … no one in and no one out, especially family members, and then you really can’t leave the campus. So guys are like, ‘Hold on, wait a minute. I can’t leave at all? I can’t go to the store? I can’t go walk around?’ … You’re asking an awful lot. Basically, you’re putting people in an experiment. You’re putting them in a glass bubble for maybe six to eight weeks.”
“I’m not holding it against the 40-50 players. Some people have real fears, conditions, or maybe they’ve had a birth of a child. I understand all of their concerns.”@ShannonSharpe on a group of NBA players being hesitant to return pic.twitter.com/hYgZ7V7jib
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) June 11, 2020
Of course, the idea of keeping the players, coaches and staff in the bubble is to keep the person-to-person contact at a minimum, which will obviously lessen the chances of spreading the virus if someone were to contract it.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer further detailed how the NBA plans to go about testing players and team members upon their arrival in Orlando, as well as the precautions that will be taken place if a player were to test positive for COVID-19.
“Upon arrival, all team members will be tested and then could be quarantined in their rooms for 36 hours. Daily testing will follow the quarantine period. The league is exploring the use of a saliva mouth swab to replace the uncomfortable deep-nasal swab often used for the coronavirus. If a player tests positive, they will need to quarantine for at least 10 days and have two negative tests before rejoining their team. The same is true if a player leaves the league’s Disney World campus, which will be closed off to the public. If a player leaves and returns, they will need to quarantine for at least 10 days and test negative twice before rejoining.”
Sources: All NBA team members arriving in Orlando will be tested and quarantined in their rooms for 36 hours. If a player tests positive, they must quarantine for at least 10 days and have two negative tests before rejoining their team.
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) June 8, 2020
As of Friday morning, Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports shared more layaers to the NBA saga, revealing that the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests, as well as the current social climate, has also caused players to be weary of a return to play as well.
“The unease about relocating to a quarantined campus during the COVID-19 pandemic was already viewed as hazardous and unnecessary to many players. But because of the George Floyd tragedy and the powerful movement for racial justice that’s sweeping the nation, some players believe it’s bad optics for a league comprised predominantly of black men to be sequestered in one location for up to three months merely to entertain the masses and ease the league’s economic burden, sources said.”
Yahoo Sources: Significant number of players disappointed their voice wasn’t heard in decision to restart season, and others believe black players sequestered to entertain and ease league’s economic burden amid racial tension is bad optics. https://t.co/F4BiqWD6uQ pic.twitter.com/hhw8rGdLh8
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 12, 2020
Haynes also revealed that “several players have been reluctant to express their views in fear of opposing the superstars who are adamant about playing if proper safety measures are in place.”
Those superstars include LeBron James and president of the National Basketball Players Association Chris Paul.
Also as of Friday morning, Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks reported that the number of players willing to sit out has tripled from the 50 that were initially reported by Wojnarowski.
MORE: I’ve spoken to multiple players, about 5 days ago there was a zoom call of about 50 players discussing what they can do to take a stand. They are planning another call tonight with about 150 players to solidify what that stand is and stress this only works if they unify. https://t.co/FsklmAiD1I
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) June 12, 2020
With the return to play set for seven weeks from Friday, the NBA and its players have a small window of time to come to an understanding on how to handle the bubble and the decision to play.
Stay tuned for more updates.
Source: Fox Sports