Trouble In Paradise? 5 Threats That Could Derail the NBA Restart

NBA players are arriving in Orlando ahead of the league’s planned restart and posting about the experience on social media. The long-awaited bubble finally seems a little more real and a little more achievable. If the NBA pulls this off, during a pandemic that shows little sign of slowing down, it will be quite a feat.

The NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver will have to tiptoe through a minefield to ensure the season can start, let alone finish with a champion. There are so many obstacles to overcome and uncontrollable aspects that the league needs to navigate through. When you take a wide eyed look, it seems nearly impossible to be successful. But the NBA is in “The Bubble” with the intention of finishing the season.

I decided to compile a list of bubble threats just to get a handle on the current state of play. The goal here is to list events that could plausibly happen. The chance of these occurring vary, and the impact varies from a complete shutdown to a pause in play. But this list has the capability of derailing the NBA’s months of hard work.

1. Outbreak among the players and coaches

This is the most obvious catastrophe, and it’s the one acknowledged as a potential game-ender by Silver. On the prospect of an internal outbreak, Silver said, “We would know that there’s, in essence, a hole in our bubble or that our quarantine or our campus is not working in some way.”

What Silver has not addressed is , where is the line? How many infections does it take to shutdown the bubble operation? Is a single infection enough to shut down the whole league for a second time? Is it a substantial amount of a single team? What if an elderly coach contracts the virus?

Will the NBA use the guidelines of The Basketball Tournament (TBT), that states if a single player gets infected then the entire league is eliminated from play? Realistically that is not an option.

TBT is a single elimination tournament meaning its bubble rapidly shrinks, thus tilting the infection odds in their favor over time. The NBA, in contrast, starts with 22 teams and has them run through an eight-game season, with scrimmages before that. After shrinking down to 16 teams, the NBA will give us the traditional drawn-out seven-game playoff series. So the comparison isn’t exact nor fair.

Hopefully the bubble works and players and coaches remain healthy, but it would be interesting to see how Silver handles the potential situation.

2. Outbreak among the Disney workers

An aspect that doesn’t seem to be getting a huge percentage of discussion time is the Disney workers. The NBA will rely on an army of Disney workers to make the Disney campus go. There’s really no way around this. Whenever you see any televised sports event, it’s brought to us by an unsung legion of invisible helpers.

The invisible helpers in this scenario are vital and at the same time potentially dangerous. If the workers are not responsible outside of their work, the chance of them bringing the virus into the bubble is immense. That remains a huge flaw in the bubble concept. With workers going and coming as they please, you don’t really have a bubble.

The NBA will take certain precautions to maintain boundaries between worker and player, but it still remains a high concern.

3. Government Enforced Shutdown

On big sports related decisions, we often ask, “What will the league do?” or “What will the commissioner decide?” But during a pandemic, the commissioners and leagues are as powerful as the local government will allow. If government officials declare the NBA’s experiment untenable, they will have the final say.

The NBA likely has an ally in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has openly pushed for pro sports to continue. But if the pandemic hits Florida the way it hit New York, things could change rather quickly.

4.Outbreak outside the bubble

The NBA, and Disney workers could do everything right and this could still fall apart. The coronavirus has proven it will decimate a city, state and country rather swiftly. If a second wave hits the way the first wave hit, the NBA season becomes unimportant.

If hospital beds are filling up around the bubble, the NBA’s use of resources becomes hard to defend, plus the NBA will be denied easy access to medical care should anything happen to its players.

It would be a bad optic for the NBA to promote their games, use resources while the community surrounding the bubble are in dire need of resources and funds. For as progressive as Adam Silver and the NBA players are, I doubt they would continue to play. It’s not what the league is about.

5. Players not complying to bubble rules

Remember, the NBA isn’t just trying to suppress the infection; they’re trying to get players to follow their lead. Getting millionaire men, in the prime of their careers to stay bunkered down on a campus isn’t an easy sell.

Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid bluntly admitted that he doesn’t trust other players to follow the rules. If Embiid is correct and we see a bunch of players flouting regulations (say, continually leaving the campus in large numbers), that could be enough for Silver or Florida’s government to enforce a shutdown of the league.

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