Although the NBA has officially settled on a return-to-play plan for the 2019-20 regular season and playoffs, there are still a number of other guidelines and decisions that still have yet to be put in place.
The league has put an emphasis on ensuring player and staff safety for its bubble location at Walt Disney World Resort in late July. Regardless, it is imperative that they determine a course of action in the event that a player tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) or suffers any other serious injury.
General managers around the league have already made it clear that they would like to bring expanded rosters into the bubble. The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly will include two-way players Kostas Antetokounmpo and Devontae Cacok in their travel party.
However, it remains to be seen what other alternatives teams will have at their disposal if they are forced to make the adjustments throughout the course of the eight regular-season seeding games and playoffs. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks, the player pool is expected to only feature those signed with an NBA team or any of its affiliates:
If COVID-19 or a serious injury strikes a team during training camps or the eight regular-season seeding games, there are expected to be no limitations on the number of players a team could sign to replace those lost, but there would be restrictions on those in the pool of eligible players, sources said.
Eligible replacement players probably will have had to be signed in the NBA or G League or be on training camp contracts this season, sources said. Under these restrictions, for example, no team could sign veteran Jamal Crawford — who went unsigned all season — or an international player.
Reports indicate that players who test positive for COVID-19 or an injury would be quarantined anywhere from seven to 14 days. If the team opts to replace them with someone from the available pool of players, they would then effectively be ruled ineligible to return the rest of the season.
This leaves teams with a decision to make depending on the caliber of player that is forced to take some time off. Of course, it remains to be seen just how practical it would be to bring another player into the bubble environment and have them risk their health for a minimal role in the postseason.