NBA confident in ‘bubble’ system as season resumes at Disney

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The NBA has wished upon a star, and it hopes a safe end to the 2019-20 season at Disney World will come true.

The quest for the NBA Finals in October starts Thursday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida. The NBA season will officially resume, after it became the first major professional sports league to shut down due to the coronavirus on March 11. 

Commissioner Adam Silver joked on CNN Wednesday that he’ll give the champions “a double gold star” and a Larry O’Brien Trophy twice the size of what teams usually get, “for the commitment and the sacrifice and just the endurance to have made it to the end of what will have been our longest season.”

On the eve of Thursday’s seeding games, the league and players union announced that 344 players were tested at the Disney campus, and all tests came back negative.

NBA and NBPA Announce COVID-19 Test Results

— NBPA (@TheNBPA) July 29, 2020

The last test result announcement was on July 20 — all tests came back negative, too.

“So far, we’ve been there for roughly three weeks and we’ve had zero cases, so it seems to be holding up and working so far,” Silver said.

The results are encouraging despite the state of Florida’s ongoing battle with COVID-19. 

As we’ve seen in Major League Baseball this week — which is traveling regionally instead of maintaining a “bubble” — precision isn’t guaranteed. In fact, MLB has a major problem with the Miami Marlins outbreak. As a result, the Phillies haven’t played since Sunday. 

The virus is still a threat, which is why the NBA is enacting extensive testing and, as Silver put it, rigorous protocols. 

“Other than when guys have to take those masks off when they’re playing basketball, masks are required at all times on the campus,” he said, “and we keep people physically distant in any way we can possible.”

Silver said everyone “is tested on a nightly basis and then they, as a practical matter, don’t leave their room until they have their results the next morning.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown can vouch for that.

“Every day I take my temperature. And every day I do my oxygen test, and it immediately goes to a Bluetooth device on my phone that lets me in places. Every day I’m tested with mouth and nasal swabs,” he explained.

And — based on the extremely popular “Welcome To The Bubble” vlog series by Sixers rookie Matisse Thybulle — everyone has special wristbands to use at certain access points, which identifies whether they’re healthy enough to enter.

The 76ers’ first official game is Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Indiana Pacers. 

Thursday’s restart kicks off with the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz at 6:30 p.m., and the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers at 9 p.m.

Silver also said on CNN that unlike MLB, a single positive test “probably wouldn’t shut us down” — as it did back in March. It would also be followed by contact tracing.

“If we had any significant spread whatsoever, we would certainly stop immediately, and then we would investigate and determine whether we could move forward,” he added.