So far, the NBA’s bubble in Orlando has worked as planned. Outside of a few player transgressions, everyone has been safe and healthy in the bubble and there have been no positive Coronavirus tests inside the Disney World campus.
While the setting is certainly not ideal for anyone, it’s the only way resuming the season safely could have worked. Baseball’s recent news regarding a high spread of infections among the Miami Marlins is proof that there’s no real way to allow the teams to play in their own markets.
Unfortunately, that may be the case for quite some time. The NBPA’s executive director, Michele Roberts, told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps that as things stand, she doesn’t envision playing the 2020-2021 season in a similar bubble setting:
“If tomorrow looks like today, I don’t know how we say we can do it differently,” Roberts told ESPN in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “If tomorrow looks like today, and today we all acknowledge — and this is not Michele talking, this is the league, together with the PA and our respective experts saying, ‘This is the way to do it’ — then that’s going to have to be the way to do it.”
This, of course, raises a lot more questions. How will the league handle even more revenue loss from not being able to sell tickets, a likelihood given the state of the country, even if the league opts to allow teams to play in their home arenas? How will players handle going back to their families and homes for about a month before the next season starts (in December if all goes to plan) and they have to be taken to another bubble? Can a longer bubble with 30 full teams and staffs work as effectively as this one has so far?
This seems like the start of a long and arduous negotiating process between the league and the players union. All options need to be on the table, including multiple hubs teams can play in, fewer games in the season, and breaks in the schedule so players don’t have to go several months without seeing their loved ones. Ultimately, money will be the deciding factor and the league (and by proxy, its players) will lose a lot of it given the lack of ticket revenue and potentially less TV money if the season is cut shorter.
Obviously, basketball comes second to all the real world issues that the pandemic has created, especially for less fortunate people than team owners and athletes. But we all want to be able to watch our favorite sport in a safe manner and, right now, that appears like a very difficult thing to do for a “normal” season.