NBA ‘very comfortable’ with restart venue despite coronavirus surge

The NBA confirmed its July 30 restart inside the league’s ‘bubble’ at Disney World in Orlando. (AFP)
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Updated 27 June 2020

NBA ‘very comfortable’ with restart venue despite coronavirus surge

  • ‘We’re not saying full steam ahead no matter what happens’
  • ‘We are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus. No options are risk-free right now’

NEW YORK: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday the league remains “very comfortable” with its decision to restart the season in Florida as the state battled a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases.
In a conference call with reporters held after the league confirmed details of its July 30 restart, Silver said the league would be ready to halt play if there was a significant outbreak among NBA players and personnel inside the league’s “bubble” at Disney World in Orlando.
But Silver added the league was confident that protocols put in place at the Disney World campus would be sufficient to shield NBA players and staff from the worst of the escalating COVID-19 crisis in surrounding areas.
Health officials in Florida on Friday announced 8,942 new cases of the disease, smashing the previous single-day record of 5,511 set earlier this week.
Cases in Orange County, where Orlando is located, have skyrocketed to more than 6,500 from 1,800 cases a month ago.
“My ultimate conclusion is that we can’t outrun the virus and this is what we’re going to be living with for the foreseeable future, which is why we designed the campus the way we did,” Silver said.
“It’s a closed network and while it’s not impermeable we are in essence protected from cases around us. For those reasons we’re still very comfortable being in Orlando.
“We’re never going to say there’s nothing that would cause us to change our plans, but one thing we’re learning about this virus is there’s so much that’s unpredictable.
“We’re not saying full steam ahead no matter what happens. We talk daily and we’re going to see how this continues to play out. But we feel very comfortable right now with where we are.”
Silver meanwhile said isolated coronavirus cases which emerged during the restarted season would see players placed in quarantine.
“If we had a single player test positive, frankly whether that player was an All-Star or a journeyman, that player would then go into quarantine and we would be tracking any player or personnel that player had been in contact with,” Silver said.
“We would then supplement the testing just to make sure that others haven’t been contaminated but we would continue. And that team would be down a man. We would treat that positive test as if it was an injury and we would not delay the continuation of the playoffs.”
However, Silver acknowledged a larger outbreak could lead to the season being halted.
“If we were to have a significant spread of coronavirus through our community, that might ultimately lead us to stop it,” he said.
“But we’re working closely with the players association, Disney and public health officials in Florida as to what that line should be and as yet it hasn’t been precisely defined.
“We want to get down on the ground and see how the testing and protocols are working and we’ll make decisions as we go.”
The coronavirus pandemic forced the NBA to shut down the campaign March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for the deadly virus.
Silver said the decision to resume the season on a “closed campus” had not been the NBA’s preferred option.
“We looked at several different models all based on the data around society,” Silver said.
“It was not our first choice to play on a closed campus. The data led us to conclude we did need to play on a closed campus under the protocols we’re talking about — mandatory masking, no fans, contact tracing, aggressive testing etc.
“We are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus. No options are risk-free right now.”
Earlier Friday, the NBA revealed that 16 players had tested positive for COVID-19 out of 302 tests conducted on Tuesday.
None of the players or teams involved were revealed by the NBA in a brief statement.
The tests were required as part of the agreement for players who have committed to participating in the season restart in Florida.
Each player who tested positive will remain in self-isolation until he meets public health protocol for leaving isolation and is cleared by a physician.


The NBA MVP finalists: Antetokounmpo, James and Harden

Updated 09 August 2020

The NBA MVP finalists: Antetokounmpo, James and Harden

  • James would join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a six-time winner), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the NBA’s only five-time MVPs
  • Antetokounmpo is bidding to become the 12th back-to-back winner of the award

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: This season’s NBA MVP has won the award before.
A trio of past winners of the award — reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, four-time MVP LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and 2017-18 winner James Harden of the Houston Rockets — were announced Saturday as the finalists for this season’s top NBA individual honor.
James would join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a six-time winner), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the NBA’s only five-time MVPs. Antetokounmpo is bidding to become the 12th back-to-back winner of the award, and Harden is vying for his second MVP in three seasons.
“He’s an incredible teammate, plays unselfishly, does everything,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo last month, stating his best player’s MVP case. “And I think that’s kind of what the MVP is, so we certainly feel like he’s very deserving and we’ll be excited to support him.”
Antetokounmpo is also a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year, while Utah’s Rudy Gobert is bidding to win that trophy for a third consecutive season.
The league announced the top three vote-getters in six individual categories. Voting has already taken place by a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.
The NBA has not set specific dates when the winners will be announced.
None of the games taking place at the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World factored into the voting, because ballots were due before games began again July 30.
The league took the step of saying games played before the league suspended the season on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic could factor into award consideration, out of fairness to the eight teams that were not invited to the restart.
The other finalists for NBA honors:
Rookie of the Year — Ja Morant, Memphis; Kendrick Nunn, Miami; Zion Williamson, New Orleans.
Most Improved Player — Bam Adebayo, Miami; Luka Doncic, Dallas; Brandon Ingram, New Orleans.
Sixth Man — Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers; Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City; Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers.
Defensive Player of the Year — Antetokounmpo; Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers; Rudy Gobert, Utah.
Coach of the Year — Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee; Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City; Nick Nurse, Toronto.


GASOL VS. GRIZZLIES
Marc Gasol spent parts of 11 seasons in Memphis, going to three All-Star Games with a Grizzlies jersey on his back, earning two All-NBA selections there and a Defensive Player of the Year award as well.
And now, he’ll play against his former team for the first time.
The Grizzlies face Gasol and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. It’ll be the first game between the clubs since Gasol was traded to Toronto in February 2019 — a move that helped the Raptors win last season’s NBA championship.
Gasol said facing Memphis would be emotional.
“I got there when I was 16 years old. It was my first time out of Spain,” said Gasol, who still owns his Memphis home. “I started high school there as a teenager and left as a father of two kids. ... My ties to the city and my roots go pretty deep and my love for the people there, what they mean and the franchise, it’s forever.”
Gasol helped Memphis make the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons including the 2013 run to the Western Conference finals. He is the Grizzlies’ all-time leader for minutes played, field goals made, free throws made and attempted, rebounds, blocks and triple-doubles and is second in points — 49 behind Mike Conley.
The Raptors were supposed to have played back-to-back games against Memphis this season, going there March 28 and then playing host to the Grizzlies March 30. Those games, of course, were called off because of the season suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously it’s a little bittersweet that we couldn’t play in the city of Memphis, to get that love and feel that Iove from the fans,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said. “But I’m sure he’ll be happy to see some familiar faces and a lot of the people that he spent a lot of time with over the years.”


WORKING WIZARDS
On Friday, the Washington Wizards were eliminated from playoff contention.
On Saturday, they practiced.
The Wizards knew they were playoff longshots even before coming to the NBA’s restart at Disney, especially since Bradley Beal didn’t make the trip because of injury and Davis Bertans opted not to play because of health concerns.
But these eight games — Washington is 0-5 at Disney with three games left — were considered learning opportunities for the team’s young players, and a chance to get some high-level work in before the offseason starts. And just because the playoff chances are now gone doesn’t mean Wizards coach Scott Brooks is changing his thinking on that front.
“It’s about getting better,” Brooks said. “You know, I love our group. We want to keep improving. And the record, I’m not happy with it but I’m happy with our effort after every game that we’ve been in.”
Brooks has told his team repeatedly at Disney that the losses go on his record, not theirs.
“You can’t waste the days, you have to keep working on each day and keep improving and it’s hard,” Brooks said. “It’s hard to go through, you know, five losses in a row. But in order to get where we need to get to, you’re going to have to deal with it. You’re going to have to be able to handle it. You’re going to have to be able to get better from it, and it also has to hurt, going through it. And that’s fine.”


BUCKS CLINCH
The road to the NBA championship will go through Milwaukee’s white uniforms.
The Bucks have secured the top overall seed in the NBA playoffs for the second consecutive year, the clincher coming when the Los Angeles Lakers lost to Indiana on Saturday.
Ordinarily, that would come with the right to host Game 1 and Game 7 of every series. This year, it just means that the Bucks will be called the home team in those games in each postseason round that they reach.