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Adam Silver: It would take ‘significant spread’ of COVID-19 in bubble to stop play

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Unlike the “stop play now” crowd on Twitter, Adam Silver and the NBA were not freaked out by the 16 players who tested positive for the coronavirus. Rather the opposite. The league feared the number would be higher and, as Silver added, “None of the 16 were seriously ill in any way. That was also a big relief for us.”

There are concerns among league officials and players about the record number of new coronavirus cases in Florida. Still, it would take a “significant spread” of COVID-19 in the NBA’s Orlando campus to stop play again, the NBA commissioner emphasized.

“Yes, the level of concern has increased, not just because of the increased levels in Florida but throughout the country…” Silver said during a conference call with reporters Friday. “We designed our [Orlando] campus, in essence, to isolate ourselves from whatever the level of cases are in our surrounding community.”

Put more directly, “We ultimately believe it will be safer on our campus than off it,” Silver said.

“But, this is not business as usual.”

Silver said players would be tested daily inside the bubble, “at least to start.” That level of testing was always going to be critical to maintaining the bubble the league wants to create.

One glaring weaknesses of the bubble is that the Walt Disney World employees who would be cooking the food, cleaning the rooms, and more around the NBA bubble will go home at night — back into a Florida where cases of the disease are spiking. The original plan called for Disney employees to get temperature checks and be monitored, but not tested.

That may be changing, the league is negotiating with Disney and the unions representing those workers to test the people who come in contact — “will be in the same room” — with players, Silver said.

The health of players was a large focus of the call with reporters, but players’ union president Chris Paul emphasized this wasn’t just physical health.

“Mental health is the thing a lot of [players] are thinking of first. We’re going into a tough situation…” Paul said of players being away from family, friends, their support systems and routines for an extended period of time (at least 35 days and up to three months.

“Mental health is real, and being in this situation, we’re going to be trying to come with any ideas to make sure that players are healthy in that aspect of their lives.”

Players are free to leave the Disney campus at any point, but if they return they are subject to quarantine guidelines before they can be around their fellow players or take part in games again.

Paul, Silver, and others also discussed the need for the league to provide ways for players to use the Orlando platform to promote Black Lives Matter and social justice causes.

“This is a platform, because of the game and the popularity of the game-and specifically, because of the popularity of the players — the world will be watching,” NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said.

“It’s never a shut up and dribble situation. You’re gonna continue to hear us,” Paul added.

Adam was quick to admit the Orlando restart was not an ideal situation, but that he did not want to stop play again. At one point he tried to spin the return saying, “We’re coming back because sports matter in our society. They bring people together when they need it the most.” That falls flat. This return is all about the money and everything else is a distant second.

Within that, both the league officials and players agreed everyone has done the best they can to build something that is safe for the players and league staff. It’s the best of a bad set of options.

“We ultimately believe it will be safer on our campus than off it…” Silver said.” My ultimate conclusion is we can’t outrun the virus, and we are going to be living with this for the foreseeable future… which is why we designed the campus the way we did.”

We will see if that campus design is good enough over the next couple of months.

NBA, players’ union say addressing racial inequality, systemic racism is focus of restart

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NEW YORK — The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association said Wednesday that dealing with racial matters will be a shared goal during the resumed season.

The league and union announced they will “take collective action to combat systemic racism and promote social justice” when the season restarts at the Disney complex near Orlando, Florida next month.

Specific plans have not been finalized.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts led a meeting that included league officials and players Tuesday to go over plans, including how best to ensure greater inclusion of Black-owned and operated businesses in league matters and forming an NBA foundation “to expand educational and economic development opportunities” in the Black community.

“The issues of systemic racism and police brutality in our country need to end,” union president Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder said.

He added, “there is much work ahead both in Orlando and long-term to continue the momentum and bring about real, long-lasting change to our society.”

Silver said talks will continue.

Thunder sign Luguentz Dort to contract before Orlando restart

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If there was one two-way contract player who was a lock to get picked up by their team for the restart in Orlando, it was Oklahoma City’s Luguentz Dort. He started 21 games for the Thunder before the forced interruption of the season, and OKC went 16-5 in those games.

Wednesday the Thunder did as expected and locked Dort up, doing so with a multi-year contract.

A shooting guard out of Montreal via Arizona State, he got into 29 games for the Thunder this season, starting 21 and playing strong defense in those games. His offense is a work in progress, he took 46.5% of his shots from three but hit just 30.1% of them. He’s an okay finisher at the rim (60.3% this season), but at age 21 there is a lot of time for his offense to come around.

Dort and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could be part of the Oklahoma City backcourt for a long time to come.

In the short term the two of them, plus Chris Paul, will head to Orlando and the NBA’s restart, where the Thunder are in a seeding battle in the middle of the West heading toward the playoffs.

NBA creating COVID-19 violation hotline for restart in Orlando

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There are a lot of rules for the NBA restart in Orlando — 108 pages of them, written in a font so small it’s hard to read. Social distancing rules, mask-wearing rules, there are rules about where players can eat, rules about social distancing during golf rounds, rules about card games (the cards will be thrown out each night and new decks provided), rules about not playing doubles during ping pong games, and many more. Rules to govern seemingly every aspect of life.

If someone violates one of those rules, there will be an NBA COVID-19 hotline to call and anonymously report them.

Seriously. One of the items listed in that rules handbook for the NBA’s restart is that there will be a COVID-19 violation hotline (Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic had it first).

NBA Twitter had a lot of fun with this one, starting with Kyle Kuzma.

Chris Paul — who got a technical called on Jordan Bell for an untucked shirt while walking on the court this season — was another favorite target.

What life will be like inside the NBA bubble in Orlando

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Starting July 7, life inside the NBA bubble for 22 teams of players and team staff will be ruled by a 108-page health and safety protocol handbook — one written in a tiny, Apple warranty sized font. The handbook dictates the rules about anything and everything with the NBA’s return to play.

What is in the handbook? What will life inside the NBA bubble be like?

Here is an outline based on sources who spoke to NBC Sports about the rules and regulations, plus reports from other media.

ARRIVAL

• From July 7 to 9, players will arrive at the Walt Disney World complex in Orlando. Team arrivals will be spread out over three days to avoid congestions.

• Upon arrival, players will be quarantined in their hotel room until they have two negative coronavirus tests 24 hours apart. After that, players will be tested “regularly,” according to the handbook, although that could be daily or close to it for much of the time in Orlando.

• What hotels are the players at? Here’s the breakdown.

The Grand Destino is considered the primary player hotel, and if a lower seed team advances far enough they may be asked to move to the Grand Destino from their hotel.

• Yes, the Orlando Magic have to stay in an Orlando hotel. Letting them go home would defeat the point of a bubble.

• Each player will be given a “MagicBand” — a bracelet that serves as a room key and wallet throughout the hotel and Disney property. It also will be used to check-in players for testing.

• Players also can wear a “proximity alarm” that will notify the wearer if he or she spends more than five seconds within six feet of another person with the alarm. All team and league staff will be required to wear these.

• Everyone will be required to wear a facemask, except when eating, at a workout or practice, in their room, or if they are swimming or doing something more than six feet away from another person (laying out by the pool with nobody around).

• All the food will be cooked by Disney chefs on-site, and each team will work with a “culinary team” that will make every effort to design a menu that fits dietary needs of each team. Players can have private chefs who prepare meals off-site, which can be brought into the players.

• Disney is open to setting up dining experience for players/teams at some of the restaurants on the Disney property but outside the bubble area, or having that food brought into the bubble, according to friend of this site Keith Smith.

WHAT IS THERE TO DO WHILE IN THE BUBBLE?

• The hotels will have a players-only lounge area (with televisions and gaming areas, including NBA 2K, of course), plus barbers, manicures and spa services, and more. There also will be movie screenings, some DJ sets, cards for booray games, bowling (Chris Paul will be there nightly), and other games such as ping pong — but players are not allowed to play doubles. Seriously.

• There are pools at the hotels that will be open for use by the players. There will be hiking and biking trails for use by the players.

• There will be golf available, but no caddies. Doc Rivers is going to have to carry his own clubs.

• Players are encouraged to stay in the bubble. Arrangements to leave for major life events or emergencies — the birth of a child, sick relative, wedding — can be made with the league, but the league has to be informed and as far in advance as is possible.

• While players are allowed to leave the campus/bubble, he will face a 10-14 day quarantine upon his return and will have to have two negative tests. Also, the player will not be paid for any games missed.

• Any team staff that violates the rules of the bubble or leaves the bubble without prior approval will be removed and cannot return to the Disney campus. Teams will not be able to replace that person.

• Players and staff will have to sign a document saying they will abide by the rules of the bubble.

• There will be a hotline set up where players or staff can call and report a violation of the health and safety rules in the bubble. Insert your own Chris Paul “his mask is untucked” joke here (or how every Clipper is going to call and say LeBron James is in violation of the rules).

IF A PLAYER TESTS POSITIVE

• If — or, to be more practical, when — a player tests positive inside the NBA bubble he will immediately be moved to a separate location termed “isolation housing.” The NBA is looking at some rental homes outside the Disney property to use for this.

• The player will be retested to make sure this was not a false positive.

• Teams and the league will more closely monitor and test anyone who was in close proximity to that player between tests.

• The player can return to the bubble and his team after consecutive negative tests.

• A memo to teams told them the games would not stop because of a positive test and to be prepared for that. The exact quote is, “the occurrence of a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel” the season restart. (What happens if one team has multiple positive tests impacting key rotation players will be something to watch.)

GAMES AND PRACTICES

Games inside the NBA bubble will take place at one of three facilities:
• The HP Field House will be the primary game court, it is broadcast ready.
• The Arena will have a game broadcast court plus has a couple of side practice courts.
• The Visa Center has a court that can be used for game broadcasts, but this will primarily be a practice facility.
• All three areas have weight and training areas, in addition to modern locker rooms (although not ones as nice as teams have at their home arenas).

• There will be about four hours between games, allowing time for a complete sanitization of the court, plus time for teams to do their standard pregame-warmup routines.

• There will be about 5-7 games a day during the seeding rounds, with some games not starting until 10-10:30 p.m. Eastern (which is 7:30 on the West Coast, a standard start time for the Lakers, Clippers, and Trail Blazers).

• Benches at the games will have two rows, just like at a regular NBA game. The players and coaches on the front bench do not have to wear masks (although it is encouraged for coaches), but coaches and trainers on the second row of the bench must wear masks.