Back in April, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, “It’s about the data and not the date.”
Two months later, he appears to have deviated from that point of emphasis despite concerns about a spike in coronavirus cases in Florida.
ESPN’s Baxter Holmes and Zach Lowe reported Saturday night that the surge in cases “has raised concerns in many corners of the NBA.” Silver acknowledged the increase in positive tests in a recent call with executives but “expressed a resolve to go on” because of his confidence in the NBA’s so-called bubble, according to ESPN.
The statistics are worrisome. From ESPN’s piece:
Florida added 4,049 new cases Saturday, which broke the previous single-day record of 3,822 set Friday. In all, the state has set records for single-day cases in seven of the past 10 days and is approaching 94,000 infections -- becoming a national hot spot along with Texas and Arizona, states that are also seeing surging case numbers.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said that he’s not contemplating shutting down businesses despite the spike in cases.
While the NBA has issued a 113-page memo with its health and safety protocols for Disney World, the latest developments in Florida highlight that any plan to resume sports during a pandemic is indeed an uncertain proposition.
Why would Silver and the league remain confident?
Team executives and officials are “hopeful the number of coronavirus cases will start to decline,” according to Holmes and Lowe. Additionally, “some executives and staffers speculated it might be better to get positive cases out of the way now, because players can quarantine before going to Orlando.” In Phase 2, which is set to begin Tuesday, players are set to return to their team markets and start to undergo coronavirus testing.
NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told ESPN the following:
Can't say I am surprised, given the state's approach to reopening. We are obviously clearly monitoring the situation. While we take some solace in knowing our players will not travel commercially to get to Orlando, that access to the campus is severely limited and, of course, all of the other health and safety protocols in place, the numbers will keep our attention. If necessary to add further restrictions respecting those third parties having access to the campus, we will seek to implement them.
The idea of restricting outside access as much as possible makes sense, but it doesn’t sound as if a true bubble will be viable. NBC Sports NBA insider Tom Haberstroh reported last week that Disney staffers would likely not be subject to the same daily testing and quarantine measures as NBA personnel. At this stage, asking unionized Disney employees to make adjustments to agreed-upon protocols and endure more stringent health and safety precautions might prove difficult.
The sentiment is basic enough, but it’s worth stating: The NBA does not need to finish this season. Though DeSantis has declared sports an “essential business” in Florida, the league is obviously not essential in the same way as healthcare or food.
Silver is apparently aware of the data in Florida, but, at least for now, undeterred from the date he’s set. Teams are scheduled to start traveling to Orlando on July 7, while seeding games are set to begin July 30.
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