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NBA discussing moving games to other cities, playing in empty arenas due to Coronavirus

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Wednesday, NBA owners will have a conference call with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBA staff to discuss how the league should handle protecting players and fans as the number of Coronavirus cases in the United States grows. Thursday comes separate calls with team presidents and general managers on the same topic.

What the people on those calls will hear is a range of options that include potentially moving games, playing in empty arenas, or postponing games altogether, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

…one of the scenarios introduced into the league’s conversation includes moving some games to NBA cities that have yet to suffer outbreaks, league sources told ESPN.

If the virus clusters and forces a team out of its city and arena for a period of time, there has been discussion on moving games to the away opponent’s arena if that city hasn’t suffered an outbreak — or even moving games to neutral cities and sites, league sources tell ESPN.

The NBA is discussing a number of possibilities — including eliminating fans out from buildings for games or, more drastically, suspending game operations for a period of time — but sources say decisions on those options remain complicated by the fact that there has been such a limited amount of public testing for the coronavirus in the United States. There is no full understanding of how widespread and debilitating the virus could become in the states.

The USA is just now starting to ramp up testing for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, but as a nation are behind the curve — some experts have said the people that are testing positive now likely got caught the disease a week or two ago. The United States is not moving fast enough to keep up with the pace of the virus itself.

Individual states are stepping up requests to ban large public events. For example, Ohio governor Mike DeWine requested there be a pause in mass indoor gatherings to watch sporting events, which would impact the Cavaliers (and the NCAA Tournament). Other states are expected to follow suit.

The NBA has spoken to experts and tried to follow local guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on how to handle this situation. So far it has only closed locker rooms to non-essential personnel and changed how the media interacts with players, but there is a growing sense from team officials that at least some games from the league may be played in empty buildings with no fans. The league also understands the hardship that would fall on arena workers and others who depend on game-day revenue if that were to happen.

There are no easy answers.

In the United States, there have been more than 1,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and 30 deaths. Worldwide, more than 112,000 people have tested positive with more than 3,900 deaths attributed to the virus. The majority of people — an estimated 80 percent — who get the virus suffer only mild symptoms (and may not realize they have it, speeding the spread). The deaths are primarily among vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or people with respiratory issues.

 

Report: NBA ‘snitch’ hotline receiving multiple tips

NBA snitch hotline
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When the NBA created a hotline for players to anonymously report violations inside the bubble, numerous questions emerged. How often would it get used? What consequences would told-on players face? Would other players resent how often Chris Paul called?

Some answers are emerging.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kings center Richaun Holmes and Rockets forward Bruno Caboclo are each quarantined after breaking protocols. It’s unclear how their violations were detected.

Yes, there is a culture against snitching. That this report is snitching about snitching is truly something.

But there’s too much at stake – health of hundreds of people and a lot of money – to take these protocols lightly. Everyone at the NBA’s Disney World campus is entrusting their safety (and, for players, whose salaries are tied to revenue, livelihood) to those around them. It’s important everyone involved acts responsibly.

Kings forward Harrison Barnes tests positive for coronavirus

Kings forward Harrison Barnes
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The Kings have been hit especially hard by coronavirus.

Buddy Hield, Jabari Parker and Alex Len all tested positive. Richaun Holmes is quarantined after violating the NBA’s bubble protocols at Disney World.

And now Harrison Barnes reveals he was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Harrison Barnes:

Presumably, Barnes was among the 19 players the NBA announced tested positive for coronavirus in July in home markets.

“Primarily asymptomatic” is a strange assessment. Does Barnes mean he’s mildly symptomatic?

The Kings already faced an uphill climb for making the playoffs. At best, several of their players are falling behind in training. At worst, Sacramento will have its rotation depleted when games begin.

Hopefully, Barnes recovers and joins the team as he hopes. He has a personal stake in it. Even during the lengthy hiatus, Barnes stuck with his pledge not to shave or cut his hair until the Kings reach .500 (or, as he amended it, make the playoffs) or the season ends.

Report: Pacers star Victor Oladipo’s remaining salary in dispute

Pacers star Victor Oladipo
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Among the continuing 22 NBA teams, players not playing in the resumption at Disney World essentially fall into two categories:

Pacers star Victor Oladipo lands in the gray area.

Oladipo, who returned from a year-long absence shortly before the season got suspended in March, said he was sitting out due to elevated risk of injury during a quick buildup. But he also traveled with the team to Orlando and is even practicing so well, Indiana is reportedly becoming increasingly optimistic he’ll play.

Is Oladipo healthy enough to play?

At stake for Oladipo:

  • $2,763,158 if the Pacers get swept in the first round
  • $2,993,421 if they play exactly five playoff games
  • $3,223,684 if they play six or more playoff games

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

The union believes Oladipo, who went to Orlando with the Pacers and then cleared quarantine so he could practice, should be paid his remaining salary, sources said.

The league, largely in an effort to set a precedent in case other players who are deemed healthy want to leave Orlando and no longer play, believes Oladipo has opted out and should not be paid, sources said. His public comments about feeling healthy has only solidified the league’s position on the matter, sources said.

The Pacers support Oladipo’s decision and are willing to pay him the salary whether he plays or not, sources said.

Presumably, if Oladipo plays, he’ll get paid like anyone else playing in the resumption. This controversy lingers only if Oladipo doesn’t play.

It’s unsurprising the Pacers don’t want to pick this fight with their star player, especially as he approaches 2021 free agency. Trying to avoid alienating their own players but not necessarily eager to pay for services not rendered, teams collectively want the league to handle these issues.

If teams had ample discretion, the Wizards might have said Davis Bertans – who chose to sit out – had some lingering injury. NBA players are rarely perfectly healthy. There’s always some physical issue to point to. Bertans will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and they want to re-sign him. What an easy way to build goodwill – and maybe even get a discount on Bertans’ next contract.

Obviously, the league doesn’t want those type of shenanigans. That’s why on outside rulings on players’ health can be important.

Oladipo might not be the only borderline case:

Oladipo’s situation might take care of itself if he decides to play. But the league might inquire more deeply into other situations.

Report: Rockets star James Harden ‘feeling fine,’ might travel with Russell Westbrook

Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook
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When Russell Westbrook revealed he had coronavirus, speculation immediately turned to the Rockets’ other star who also didn’t travel with the team to Disney World.

James Harden is “feeling fine,” working out and might travel with Westbrook to Orlando, according to Shams Charania of Stadium:

Was Harden also diagnosed with coronavirus? Is he just waiting for his friend before entering the restrictive bubble? Is there another issue?

These questions beget even more questions.

If both players have coronavirus, they won’t necessarily recover on the same day. Would the first to get cleared wait for the other? Or is traveling together just an idea in case it works out?

If Harden is fully healthy and just waiting for Westbrook, how do their teammates inside the bubble feel about that? Those already at Disney World are spending more time away from friends and family in less-than-ideal conditions.

If there’s another issue… who knows?

The lack of transparency around the situation only invites rumors and guesses.

At least it’s good news that Harden feels fine.