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Some NBA players, union have some concerns about playing games in ‘bubble’

Michele Roberts

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 6: NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts speaks to the crowd as she takes part in the 2019 NBA Finals Cares Legacy Project as part of the 2019 NBA Finals on June 6, 2019 at the Ira Jinkins Recreation Center in Oakland, California. 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 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

If the NBA returns this season, games will be played without fans, something NBA Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed to players in a conference call on Friday.

Those games would be played in a “bubble” — or, more likely, bubbles, as in plural — in Las Vegas and/or the Disney resort in Orlando. The idea is to have just players and “essential” staff (15 players plus 20ish people in coaches and support personnel) from the teams enter the bubble and have everyone from every team play/live/eat in one facility. The goal: Test everyone before they go into the “bubble,” then keep them inside said bubble, keep testing them, and the hope is everyone stays healthy.

It sounds like a workable idea at first, but the more anyone dives into the details it clearly becomes a logistical nightmare. Just ask the Chinese league.

Plus, NBA players — voiced through their union — have some legitimate questions about the bubble. Michele Roberts, executive director of the players’ union, spoke with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and expressed her concerns (this was before the player/commissioner conference call Friday).

A strict bubble where players are separated from their families, and only go to and from practices and games to a hotel, might seem attractive initially, Roberts said. But to enforce it, everyone inside would likely have to submit to some level of surveillance. And to Roberts, a former public defender and trial lawyer, that was problematic from the jump.

“Are we going to arm guards around the hotel?” Roberts wondered. “That sounds like incarceration to me.”

The bubble plans I have heard allow for families, but the security question is legitimate. What happens if a player’s significant other or teenage son leaves the hotel to get some pizza or ramen or whatever, then comes back in and tests positive soon after. Is everything shut down?

Roberts said at this point there is no way to eliminate risks, it’s about trade-offs.

“The questions have now evolved from, ‘Are we going to play again?’ to, ‘If we play, what are the risks going to look like?’”

The level of risk the owners are willing to take on — as most of all of them would not be in the bubble — and the risk the players are willing to take on could be very different things.

That’s one of the topics certain to come up when Roberts and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver host a conference call with players on Friday. Those risks also are one of the big hurdles in the NBA finishing this season.