As the entire world faces the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic head on, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been tasked with figuring out how basketball can safely return this season. The NBA was the first league to suspend operations during the pandemic, and wants to ensure the safety of all of their players before games can resume.
In order to do this, the NBA will likely need to look into playing out the 2019-20 season in a bubble. This means that all the games will take place within the same location, while all the players stay at the same places.
This way, as long as nobody is infected upon arrival, everyone would remain relatively safe. There are some concerns with this plan – like players’ freedom – but Silver believes that this type of plan is the likeliest to occur, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Silver said returning to play this season at one or two potential sites — including Orlando and Las Vegas — made the most sense. “There’s no point in adding risk for flying all of you city to city if there’s not going to be fans,” Silver said. “We think it would be safer to be in a single location, or two locations, to start.”
With players rightly being concerned about their sanity staying in a single location for up to two months, Silver ensured that they would at no point be locked in or forced to stay in their hotel rooms:
Silver allowed that there would need to be some restrictions in place at a single or two-site scenario, but he told players: “The goal isn’t to have you go to a market for two months to sit in hotel room.”
Making sure that players will be free to leave their hotel rooms is likely one of the big steps towards a return. If players are going to agree to leave their families for up to two months, they’ll want to know that they have some semblance of freedom.
What this would look like is most likely players only being allowed to hang out with one another within the confines of the bubble. This could even include restrictions like wearing masks and gloves.
No matter what, the NBA will need to take drastic measures in order to be able to safely return to play this season. However, the financial hit of canceling the rest of the 2019-20 season would take years to recover from, so drastic measures may be their only option.