Commissioner Adam Silver and the entire NBA is learning about the struggles of playing outside of a bubble. The league masterfully handled the restart and 2020 NBA playoffs at the Walt Disney World resort, effectively shutting out the coronavirus (COVID-19) for a full three months.
Now, as the 2020-21 season approaches one month, basketball is facing the same questions the NFL and MLB did. A handful of games have already been postponed due to teams not having the required eight players.
Meanwhile, multiple teams have at least five players in the middle of a quarantine due to either a positive test or close contact. The Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks have been the hardest hit.
However, there may be reason for hope. The NBA’s case rate is lower than the NFL’s was at the same point in the season, despite the fact that the pandemic is at a worse point outside of the league.
Meanwhile, Silver believes there should be optimism for February, and that what’s happening now is the most difficult stretch of the season that was anticipated, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic:
“January is going to be the worst month,” Silver told the group, according to sources. “We are optimistic about improvements in February … after we get through the darkest days.”
Silver is working tirelessly alongside experts in this field, meaning his optimism is likely not without data to back it up. Both the NFL and MLB had significant outbreaks in the early weeks of their seasons that eventually got under control.
MLB chose to do their playoffs in a bubble out of an abundance of caution, but the NBA may not need to make that decision. By the time their playoffs begin in May, a significant portion of the population could be vaccinated, signaling the final stages of the pandemic.
The NBA will continue to evaluate things day by day, but as both the NFL and MLB managed to continue their seasons, basketball will do the same.
No plans to suspend season amid rise in cases
While the Board of Governors met to address the rise in COVID cases among players, there were never any talks to suspend the season as they did in 2020. They did, however, address changes to several rules regarding masks, road teams, and other safety precautions.
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