Brian Scalabrine

Celtics at Home: What if the NBA can't control the Orlando bubble?

Celtics at Home: What if the NBA can't control the Orlando bubble?

The 2019-20 NBA season is set to resume July 30 as 22 teams will play in a "bubble" environment in Orlando, Fla.

Although the league's return-to-play plan is encouraging, there remains some skepticism as Florida has recently seen a significant spike in COVID-19 cases. Only 16 of the 302 NBA players tested positive for the virus, but a spread could still occur when play resumes in Orlando.

On a brand new episode of NBC Sports Boston's "Celtics At Home," Kyle Draper and Brian Scalabrine discussed how they feel about the league's plan and what happens if the bubble can't control the spread of the coronavirus.

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"What if four or five guys on the same team get it? Does that team pull out?" asked Draper. "And I don't know if they have any contingency plans. You look at the PGA Tour right now, you've got guys on the tour testing positive, you've got caddies, and you've got guys also saying 'You know what? Our of precaution I'm going to withdraw from this event.

"If two or three players on the same team get it, will other teammates say 'You know what? It's just not worth it.' And so, I don't think the NBA has an ironclad plan. I just think, and I hate to say it, there going to sort of wait and see. I think they do expect some people to get it, but what happens if players feel uncomfortable while they're down there?"

Several players already have opted not to play when the season resumes, including Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley, Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans, and Portland Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza.

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Scalabrine sees the NBA's return starting off well, but he believes there will be some complications as players spend more time in the bubble.

"I think they'll play those first eight regular season games and I think they'll even start the playoffs," Scalabrine said. "But I think right when the playoffs start, I don't know what's going to happen. Because I do believe that you're not going to be able to stop this thing. And I think multiple people on a team are going to get it, and it's just going to spread from there.

"If you're trying to stop cases from happening, I think that's sort of a pipe dream."

Watch the full episode of "Celtics @ Home" on YouTube or below. This week's episode also includes Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn discussing the continued improvement of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and a new segment of "Celtics Census" with Abby Chin and Kendrick Perkins taking on the father-son duo of Austin and Danny Ainge.

Will quality of play impress when NBA resumes? Brian Scalabrine has interesting take

Will quality of play impress when NBA resumes? Brian Scalabrine has interesting take

NBA players haven't played competitively since March when the season was shut down due to COVID-19, and despite the long layoff, one former Boston Celtic isn't concerned about the quality of play when the 2019-20 campaign resumes.

The league announced last week a 22-team return plan that includes eight additional regular season games per club, a play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed in both conferences (if necessary) and a normal four-round playoffs using the Best-of-7 format. If everything goes to plan, the regular season would resume July 31, with the playoffs starting a few weeks later in August. 

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Given the long period away from the game that these players have gone through, it's fair to wonder whether we'll see quality basketball when the actions picks back up again. Even though the environment might feel like a pickup game due to the lack of fans, NBC Sports Boston Celtics analyst Brian Scalabrine thinks the quality will be great when games resume.

"I think you'll see better basketball," Scalabrine said during Tuesday night's "Arbella Early Edition". "It's not going to feel the same because the fans won't be there, but these guys are going to compete at a high level. Did you watch 'The Last Dance'? You hear about the pickup games between Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson in the Dream Team era, guys can bring it in pickup games. Guys will get in shape. Guys will be able to play, and I think you'll see (the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th guys on the bench) will be a lot better without the crowd. And the superstars will be the same no matter what."

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Scalabrine makes a good point. Pickup games get very competitive, and the stakes will be enormously high when the action resumes because so many teams are still fighting for playoff spots and/or seeding. Once the postseason begins, five or six teams will think they have a legitimate chance of winning the Larry O'Brien Trophy as NBA champions, and that scenario should create incredibly competitive basketball.

It might take a little while for some players to get into shape, and the training camp practices and regular season games will definitely help in that regard. But by the time the playoffs commence, these players should be fully ready for the high-intensity postseason atmosphere we've come to expect from the NBA.

Why Brad Stevens gives Celtics an edge in NBA bubble, per Brian Scalabrine

Why Brad Stevens gives Celtics an edge in NBA bubble, per Brian Scalabrine

Like 21 other teams, the Boston Celtics will have to adapt to drastic changes when the NBA returns later this summer, most notably playing in empty arenas.

But could the silent gyms at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando actually give the Celtics a leg up? Former Celtics player and NBC Sports Boston analyst Brian Scalabrine believes so -- because of Boston's head coach.

As Scalabrine explained Tuesday on WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni & Fauria" radio show, Brad Stevens should benefit greatly from the lack of crowd noise when the NBA resumes in late July.

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"I think Brad is going to be remarkable in this environment," Scalabrine said. "Think about it: A free throw happens, he can call his team over and get a really quick 15-second timeout to get guys on track. Remember, I am in a lot of the huddles, especially at home. He doesn’t say much and he gets guys going in the right direction really quickly.

"Brad will have a big advantage because he’s always making team adjustments as the game goes along. On the road, it's a little tougher to do that because of the crowd. At home you can a little bit. I do like that."

Stevens is one of the stronger "Xs and Os" coaches in the NBA who is famous for his effective "ATO" (after time-out) plays. No crowd noise means more opportunities for Stevens to communicate strategy to his players, both during timeouts and during game play.

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When you combine Stevens' brain power with the Celtics' talent -- Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were enjoying career seasons before the NBA shut down on March 11, while Kemba Walker should be recovered from a nagging knee injury -- Boston could make some serious noise in the 22-game format, which is set to begin July 31 with an eight-game "seeding round" before the playoffs.

In fact, Scalabrine believes the C's have a chance to win the Eastern Conference, while sportsbooks list only the Milwaukee Bucks with better odds to win the NBA title among East teams.

Some Celtics players already have returned to the team's practice facility, so Stevens will be working his magic very soon.