The NBA’s closed-campus experiment at Disney World was hailed as a huge success that enabled to league to complete its 2019/20 season and crown a champion without any interruptions from COVID-19. However, there was no desire to repeat the experience for an entire season as teams preferred to play in their home arenas, even if no fans were allowed.
But that decision carried risks, which are already beginning to overwhelm the new season. Only one game has been canceled so far — a season-opener between the Rockets and Thunder because Houston didn’t have enough eligible players — but several teams are operating with depleted rosters due to positive coronavirus tests and contact tracing mandated by the league’s health and safety protocols.
The Sixers had just eight eligible players this afternoon as they lost at home to Denver. Danny Green was the only Philadelphia starter to suit up for the game, while Dwight Howard and Tyrese Maxey were the only other members of the rotation who played.
The team’s predicament began Thursday when Seth Curry learned that he had tested positive for the virus. Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle and Vincent Poirier shared a table with Curry at a team meeting that day, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, so they are required to quarantine for contact tracing. They will likely be unavailable for an entire week, which means three more missed games.
“We don’t know,” said coach Doc Rivers, whose season may be derailed after a 7-2 start. “We don’t know anything. We have to make that assumption, I guess. I mean, they were at a table. So it wasn’t like close contact. So maybe that will shorten their days. I don’t know that. But I guess even that’s too close. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t get that whole (thing).”
The 7-3 Celtics may be headed for the same situation. Star forward Jayson Tatum has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, joining Robert Williams, Grant Williams and Tristan Thompson in quarantine. Boston’s injury report for tomorrow’s game mentions all but eight players, which is the minimum needed for the game to be played.
Tatum’s test has also affected the Wizards because he talked after the game to Bradley Beal, who is now subject to health and safety protocols for contact tracing. The Nets, Nuggets, Spurs, Grizzlies and Mavericks are also short on players because of quarantine issues.
Kendra Andrews of The Athletic believes the NBA is making a mistake by forcing games like the one today in Philadelphia to be played. She notes that virus rates are higher now in many places than they were when the league suspended play in March, and basketball is an easy way for germs to spread because of close contact and shared equipment.
The league isn’t at a crisis situation yet, but it’s headed in that direction. Without the controlled environment that was in place at Disney World, the athletes face a lot more potential exposure to COVID-19, and just one case can change the course of a season.
We want to get your opinion. Do you believe the NBA can play an entire season under the current conditions or will it need to revert to a “bubble” alternative at some point? Please leave your responses in the comments section.