Who, what, when, where, how?
Welcome to the first season of the NBA – and, please, be the last to be played in the middle of a pandemic.
We’ve been on the training ground for most teams for two days, and the only thing we know for sure so far is that the end of the 2019-20 season, played in a tightly controlled COVID-free quarantine bubble on the Walt Disney World campus. Resort, it was indeed a fantasy.
In the bubble, there were daily tests and no one could get in or out except the resort staff, and their interaction with the players was severely limited, to the point where the cleaning team turned and ran the other way if they accidentally ended up in a corridor with someone. of the NBA contingent.
Even if the players wanted to, they couldn’t break the protocol – not without being discovered, at least.
The virus never entered and the games went smoothly.
But now this is the real world, and in a short time, we have real-world problems. On Monday, the Toronto Raptors announced on Monday that three members of its organization tested positive for COVID-19 during the league’s mandatory test period before the training camp. The three infected individuals have isolated themselves from the rest of the approximately 60 Raptors team members and players who are hiding in their hotel in downtown Tampa Bay, but after that, we don’t know much and we probably won’t.
“We are not going to go into detail about who, what, when, how and why of the three members, but we are here to answer any questions,” was how Raptors general manager Bobby Webster started an online press conference.
He was not there to answer many of them, because there was not much he could really say. He’s flying around the seat of his pants as much as anyone else.
The Raptors’ case is not isolated. The NBA announced that during testing from November 24 to 30, when players returned to their local markets to prepare for the training ground, 48 of the 546 players tested were positive for the virus, or about 8.8 percent .
To put that in perspective, if the NBA were one of the 50 U.S. states, that rate would rank you 36th, nestled between Florida and West Virginia, which is not so comforting, given that the country as a whole is in the middle of the second wave that has already surpassed in almost any measure the peak of the first in March and April. That was the one that led the league to close for four months in the first place and just resume play in an antiseptic bubble.
But now here they are trying to play with it.
For this raw math, the Raptors did very well, having only three positive tests, which translates into a positivity rate of about 5%, which would make them the sixth best state, just behind New York and ahead of Massachusetts.
But even three cases are nothing, and the virus has shown that there are probably many more where they came from. Finding out how to navigate will be – it is eminently clear – an ongoing problem that will not go away until vaccines are widely available, which is, who knows when?
Until then, the league will be forced to discover things at the trot, with each situation slightly different. The Portland Trail Blazers had three positive tests on Sunday. And they closed their practice facilities for thorough cleaning – you guessed it – “an abundance of caution”
The Raptors had three positive tests and did not miss a beat, with the second day of training camp going on without interruption.
“We had a full training camp (Monday),” said Webster. “We are comfortable with the fact that the three cases have been isolated. … (After) contact tracking was performed, there were no more positive tests. Therefore, we are confident that we can continue with basketball. “
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said on Sunday that the Raptors’ 20 training camp players were available for the team’s first full training, although Webster did not confirm this and did not provide information on when the subjects tested positive.
In addition, the details were sparse and will likely remain so, given privacy laws.
Once positive test results are received, the next steps come from the thick folder of protocols that the NBA has implemented for the bubble and has been revising and expanding ever since. The first step is to isolate those with a positive test and then start tracking the contact. Regardless of whether those who test positive are asymptomatic or not, they will have to wait two weeks before returning to the team.
Given the speed with which the games will come as soon as the season starts – each team will try to stick to a schedule of 72 games in about 150 days – keeping positive tests to a minimum will be critical. The league has instituted rules on how players and officials interact on the road, limiting how and where they can eat and who can eat in their hotel rooms, with similar restrictions in their home markets. Penalties for violations range from warnings to fines, player suspensions, loss of draft choices and withdrawal from games for teams that do not comply.
But people are people, and the season will likely depend on how seriously a group of men in their 20s will behave. On the one hand, you have James Harden showing up late for the Houston Rockets camp because of what appears to be a mask – optional birthday party and on the other hand, you have Karl Anthony Towns, the Minnesota Timberwolves star who lost his mother and six other family members for the pandemic.
“It is a huge challenge, right?” said Webster. “It is a logistical challenge, it is a health challenge, it is a human challenge that we are all going through. This is constantly on our mind, as we try to prepare for an NBA season, as I’m sure most of us are seeing on the sports scene, this was about to happen, so we just wanted to make sure that, you know, everything kind of tied up and continuing to review, continuing to educate, continuing to raise awareness among our players, coaches and staff, almost on a daily basis. “
Prior to Monday’s news, the Raptors had not been affected by the new coronavirus. In Toronto, they were able to start individual training at the OVO Center in May, while the city was preparing to leave confinement and, before going to Disney, the team managed to create their own mini-bubble in Naples, Florida, for almost three weeks so they could get together, train and test before entering the virus-free bubble, as the NBA required.
Raptors, Webster says, are very good at this.
“I think the nature of the protocols was essentially to create small bubbles around each team,” he said. “So, basically, to get into the bubble or around a team, you need to follow a series of protocols (e) continuously test the negative. So, we all have a habit of waking up in the morning, getting down and taking the test, wearing your mask, taking your food to go, eating in your room, jumping on a bus, being socially distant, coming to practice is obviously the one we’re in all together, where players don’t wear masks … I think it’s become quite normal and routine for us now. “
It is a system that worked very well, but it is not perfect and it probably cannot be.
We are in 2020-21 and we are no longer at Disney.