The NBA apparently wants to bring back as many of its 30 teams as possible, provided that the league moves forward with tentative plans for a resumption of league play later this summer. The spread of the novel coronavirus caused league commissioner Adam Silver to halt the 2019/20 season on March 11. But should every team return, even the 14 likely lottery squads?
The most popular proposed plan is resuming play in one or two “bubble” sites, with Walt Disney World in Orlando emerging as the current front-runner, starting around mid-July. When play was paused in March, all teams had played between 63 and 67 of the regular season’s standard 82 games.
The notion of adding an extra 14 teams’ worth of players, team personnel and loved ones to a mass population that already includes 16 teams (with approximately 35 people traveling per each team), on top of referees and a broadcast media presence, at a moment in time when the highly-contagious COVID-19 is still incurable and spreading rampantly amidst close contact feels superfluously dangerous.
With a significant majority of the NBA’s games already having been played, why not limit the “bubble” head count with just the 16 teams sporting the best records when league play stopped?
If the league is concerned about teams being rusty due to the extended time off (at least four months by the earliest possible projections), perhaps the teams present could participate in something akin to a five-game tune-up “preseason” for two weeks. That way, lottery-bound teams or teams with the faintest of hopes at a playoff berth would not be taking undue extra risk by traveling to the “bubble” cities and mingling with the other teams.
The higher the head count, the higher the hypothetical risk of a COVID-19 spread among the players, coaches, and other traveling team personnel present. In a new piece, Steve Popper of Newsday also voiced his concern that including all 30 teams in an un-paused season was an unnecessary exercise. The best way to minimize risk is to keep the pool in a potential “bubble” city as finite as possible.
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