Report: Players Concerned with ‘Restricted and Isolated Nature’ of NBA’s Orlando Restart

Jesse Pantuosco
June 11, 2020 - 10:56 am
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The NBA’s return to play was approved in a vote held by the league’s Board of Governors last week, but per reports, some players are beginning to get cold feet. All-Star point guard Damian Lillard had previously expressed skepticism in the NBA’s plan to host the remainder of its games in a “bubble” environment—particularly if the Trail Blazers weren’t given a realistic chance to qualify for the postseason—and apparently that sentiment remains prevalent around the league.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, a “faction” of players are having second thoughts about competing when play resumes next month, citing concerns with the “restrictive and isolated nature” of the league’s bubble setting at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando. Under the league’s current guidelines (which have yet to be finalized), visitors will not be permitted until after the first round of the playoffs while any player who leaves the premises will be subject to a minimum 10-day quarantine upon their return. Players can choose not to participate in Orlando, but they wouldn’t be paid for games missed. The NBA also has plans to use replacement players should anyone get hurt or test positive for the coronavirus. Players who need replacements would not be eligible for the remainder of the 2019-20 slate.

With concern growing—Wojnarowski notes that social unrest and protests resulting from George Floyd’s death in Minnesota have further complicated the league’s return—the NBA is looking at potential workarounds that would allow players to stay home without facing consequences including forfeiting paychecks. While many are anxious to get back on the court, 40-50 players voiced their concerns on conference calls held earlier this week with non-title contenders reportedly the most reluctant to embrace the league’s stringent quarantine policies.

According to Robert Silverman of The Daily Beast, credentialed media will be subject to similar restrictions. Per a memo from Josh Robbins, president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, reporters who make the trip to Disney will be split into separate tiers with limited access. Journalists who leave the Disney campus at any point will not be readmitted while higher-priority reporters (Tier 1) will be tested daily for COVID-19. The memo also said the NBA won’t foot the hotel bill for writers covering the league’s return, though their meals will be paid for. For many news outlets, the cost of paying for months of hotel accommodations, only to be granted minimal access (second-tier reporters are prohibited from having “face-to-face interactions” with players and coaches), far outweighs the potential benefits, which will likely result in a significantly reduced media presence in Orlando.

It seemed like the NBA had it all figured out (especially compared to MLB, which continues to drag its feet), but maybe commissioner Adam Silver overlooked certain elements in fast-tracking the league’s return. With training camps to open in less than three weeks, there’s still time to smooth out some of these rough edges, but not a lot of it.

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