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Michelle Roberts: Next NBA season might need to be in bubble, too

NBA bubble

ORLANDO, FL - JULY 27: Brook Lopez #11 of the Milwaukee Bucks jumps the opening tip against Derrick Favors #22 of the New Orleans Pelicans as part of the NBA Restart 2020 on July 27, 2020 at The Arena at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Watching Major League Baseball’s struggles with their restart — a plan where teams played in their home parks and traveled to play each other, just like a typical season, but with more masks and no fans — has given everyone around the NBA pause.

The hope had been to play out this restarted season in the bubble/campus at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, then next season — starting in December — return to something closer to a normal season. Maybe not unlike what the MLB tried. The situation with the Marlins has shown how fragile that plan could be.

Michelle Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, told Tim Bontemps of ESPN the NBA could be back in a bubble in December if the status of the disease around the nation has not changed.

“If tomorrow looks like today, I don’t know how we say we can do it differently,” Roberts told ESPN in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “If tomorrow looks like today, and today we all acknowledge -- and this is not Michele talking, this is the league, together with the PA and our respective experts saying, ‘This is the way to do it’ -- then that’s going to have to be the way to do it.”

She’s right.

It’s far too early to say the NBA has shown the campus/bubble concept works, the first real game has yet to be played, and there will be more tests to the system than where Lou Williams decides to get dinner. However, so far, so good. No player has tested positive for the NBA inside the bubble (that’s why the NBA was testing players for weeks before everyone came to Orlando, then quarantining when they arrived).ub

The only way to start the next NBA season may be in a bubble (or, bubbles).

“I’m not in the Trump camp in believing it’s all going to go away in two weeks, but I’m praying, praying that there will be a different set of circumstances that will allow us to play in a different way,” Roberts said. “But because I don’t know, all I know is what I know now. So it may be that, if the bubble is the way to play, then that is likely gonna be the way we play next season, if things remains as they are.

“I hope not. Because I’d like to think that people can live with their families. But I can only comment on what I know, and what I know is right now.”

The NBA has an advantage — because of the size of the rosters and the size of the court — that the MLB, NFL, and other sports do not. It’s was far from easy for the NBA to build a 22-team bubble in Orlando, but it would be a far more difficult task for the NFL to do something similar. The NBA could recreate their success, but it’s one thing to do it for an eight-game “season” and the playoffs and another entirely to do it for a season.

It’s impossible to say where we will be as a nation in combating the coronavirus come November and December. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the danger of making predictions that far out.

But a prediction that next NBA season starts in a bubble is not outlandish.