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NFL team on the verge of a new stadium

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NFL team on the verge of a new stadium

From Comcast SportsNet
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- The Minnesota Vikings' hopes of a new stadium are one affirmative vote away from becoming reality. Only a state Senate vote stands between the franchise and the 975 million stadium the Vikings would move into ahead of the 2016 season. The House passed the stadium plan early Thursday by a 71-60 vote. The stadium would lock down a treasured team no longer bound by a stadium lease, but also would go down as the one of the largest subsidized projects in state history at a time of tight government budgets. The reworked bill has the Vikings paying 477 million, a significant cut above the figure team officials had once described as "set in stone." Though the package was tougher, it was clearly the team's only chance to replace the Metrodome, a 30-year-old facility the Vikings say has outlived its usefulness. Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said the team's billionaire owners, New Jersey developers Zygi and Mark Wilf, decided to lock in the deal rather than hold out for better terms, knowing the Legislature had only two days left to act. "It is a heavy lift but it is the right thing to do for Minnesota," Bagley said. The Vikings intend to take advantage of an NFL loan program, sell naming rights and possibly impose seat license fees to help cover the team's end of construction costs. As revised, the fixed-roof stadium would draw on 348 million in state money, plus 150 million from an existing city of Minneapolis hospitality tax. Under the bill, the Vikings would sign a 30-year lease on a stadium to be built on the site of the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The team would pay about 13 million annually in operating fees, though a public authority gets the power to rent out the building on non-game days for concerts, conventions and special events. The Wilfs would get exclusive rights to recruit a professional soccer team to Minnesota. The bill gives the Vikings the option to upgrade to a retractable roof, but at their expense. Bagley said the Vikings haven't decided if they'll make that enhancement. The state's share was to come through expanded gambling, which some legislators opposed on principle. Others worried the state overestimated the money it would get by authorizing charitable organizations to offer electronic versions of pull tabs, a low-tech paper game offered in bars and restaurants around the state. Rep. Morrie Lanning, a Republican who was the stadium's chief House advocate, said getting the required votes depended on upping the team contribution by 50 million. The team long said it would give no more than 427 million. "We knew we had to drive a hard bargain and we drove a hard bargain," he said. If the Senate gives its OK later Thursday, the bill goes to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature, a near certainty given the months he has pressed legislators to come up with a stadium deal that would guarantee the Vikings don't get lured away. The city of Minneapolis would have a month to consent, which is considered a formality. Outgunned but not going quietly, opponents expressed disgust that lawmakers were bowing to baseless fears of the team leaving if it doesn't get a new stadium. "I think the state got rolled. Our constituents got rolled," said Rep. Tina Liebling, a Democrat from Rochester. "I think we can do much better." Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen was among those to slam the state's decision to authorize thousands of mini-gambling devices in bars and restaurants and take a cut of the profits. He characterized the plan as preying on people addicted to gambling. "Rather than Robin Hood, we're robbing the poor to subsidize the rich," said Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe. But ardent fan Larry Spooner Jr., the leader of a band of Vikings fans who held daily vigils at the Capitol during stadium discussions, was giddy with excitement. Spooner said he would hold off on celebrating until all of the votes were done. "We are Vikings fans," he said. "We are prepared for the worst."

NBA Orlando restart: What are chances 2020 season sinks or swims?

NBA Orlando restart: What are chances 2020 season sinks or swims?

As it stands right now, the NBA appears well on track to begin its 22-team season restart on July 30 in Orlando.

The question, though, is if it will finish what it starts.

On the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh explained the array of apprehensions that come with the experiment the league is about to embark on. From the health and safety issues that come with a still-raging pandemic, to the mental health concerns facing a player population under relative isolation, and more, pulling this bubble off would be a grand logistical feat by the NBA.

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So, what odds did Haberstroh give the season ending as currently planned, and with a champion crowned? 50-50. A coin flip.

“I know that’s a cop-out,” Haberstroh said, “but I think it’s about a 90 percent chance we see a tip-off on July 30, and I think it’s going to be less so at the end of the playoffs. Because I think, we don’t know how this coronavirus is going to react to this bubble, we don’t know how disciplined the players will be in respect to staying in the bubble and respecting the social distancing rules and the mask rules.

“Everything looks good on paper. The 113-page protocol the NBA gave out was very thorough, an epidemiologist that I talked to said that it was a really solid plan. Of course, as Adam Silver says, it’s not risk-free. There’s risk in this bubble, and I think, when I mentioned the 50/50 proposition to an executive two days ago, he responded, ‘I don’t think that’s pessimistic enough.’ And I thought I was on the wrong side of that — I thought, I was like ‘Is that too pessimistic here, 50/50?’ And he assured me that there is concern around the league about — not Week 1, I don’t think it’s the first month in the bubble that teams worry about. I think it’s just as the bubble continues, Month 2, Month 3, is that people let their guard down and slowly just get a little bit too comfortable with the surroundings, and that’s what you have to guard against.”

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The NBA released the latest results from its mandatory “Phase 2” testing on Thursday, reporting that 25 of 351 (7.1%) players tested since June 23 were positive for COVID-19, along with 10 of 884 (1.1%) team staffers.

“Phase 2” of the league’s restart plan saw the 22 invited teams return to their home markets (the one exception being the Toronto Raptors, who traveled straight to Orlando) for restricted workouts at team facilities. An influx of positives under those circumstances was to be expected. In fact, the Nuggets, Clippers and Nets all recently reportedly shuttered their facilities on a temporary basis after positive tests in their respective organizations — though the Nets have since reopened theirs, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski

The hope for the league is that the invited teams can enter Orlando as infection-free as possible, and from there, daily testing, symptom monitoring, contact tracing, and targeted sanitation and social guidelines can mitigate potential infection, spread, or, worse yet, outbreak.

But there are concerns on that front, as well, starting with the testing protocols surrounding the Disney employees that will staff the bubble.

“The biggest worry, to me, is the Disney staffers who are not being quarantined, who are not being tested day-to-day,” Haberstroh said. “Adam Silver on a recent call with reporters said that they are trying to find a subset, or negotiate with Disney, a subset of their Disney staffers who are coming from homes or an environment where there’s as high as 15% positive tests in Orange County, Fla., they’re trying to figure out a way to test those individuals before they come into the bubble. Right now they are not being tested.”

Should the league keep its players sufficiently insulated from said staffers, perhaps that won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. But given the unpredictability of the virus, and the unpredictability of individual human behavior, it’s impossible to yet know exactly how the bubble experiment will play out. How many positive tests will there be in the bubble? How many positives would warrant another season shutdown? Will positive tests on different teams be treated differently based on specific risk factors — e.g. age of coach? For that matter, will older coaches be allowed to walk the sidelines? Will we even see quality basketball? Could players be at higher injury risk after a months-long hiatus? Will anyone break the bubble? Is this all even worth it?

As Haberstroh noted Silver saying, there’s no risk-free option for resuming a contact sport during a global pandemic, especially considering all the variables the NBA brings with it. The above questions are nebulous for now. But answers may soon rear their head.

Listen to the rest of the conversation, in which Haberstroh and Co. discuss the NBA's restart, Zion Williamson's return to action and the state of the Bulls' rebuild, here or via the embedded player above.

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Tom Haberstroh details the NBA Bubble in Orlando

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Tom Haberstroh details the NBA Bubble in Orlando

The first game in the NBA Bubble in Orlando is scheduled for July 30 for the resumption of the 2019-2020 NBA season. 

Kevin Anderson and Rob Schaefer are joined by NBC Sports NBA insider Tom Haberstroh to discuss the details of the bubble and if the top four seeds should select their opponent in the playoffs. Later, Tom shares his thoughts on the Bulls' front office changes.

(1:14) - Will the NBA finish the rest of the season?

(9:11) - How concerned is the NBA with the mental health of the players in the bubble?

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(17:35) - This will be the hardest championship ever won

(30:18) - Should the top four seeds be able to select their playoff opponent?

(43:35) - What does the rest of the NBA think of the Bulls' front office changes?

Listen here or below.

Bulls Talk Podcast

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