“Not going to happen” - Executives across the league rule out possibility of another NBA bubble amid ongoing COVID-19 crisis

2021 NBA G League Winter Showcase - Day One
2021 NBA G League Winter Showcase - Day One

NBA executives have gathered in Las Vegas for the NBA G League Showcase that opened Sunday morning. The Showcase offers the league’s general managers a casual opportunity to watch future players and talk trades.

Unfortunately this year, the Showcase has been ridden with anxiety coming from the NBA losing a hefty number of players to health and safety protocols. As a result, only a few executives showed up this year: Sam Presti of the OKC Thunder and Mitch Kupchak of the Charlotte Hornets.

Will the NBA induce another bubble system?

With COVID making waves into the front offices of coaches and executives, this year has run into another conversation regarding the option of a bubble.

When asked about returning to a similar format in a conversation with a reporter from Bleacher Report, one executive explained there was “no chance,” with many others stating in agreement it was “not going to happen."

The NBA has already postponed several of its games in the past week in an attempt to slow the virus and keep its players safe. There is speculation the league could be looking to pause soon after Dec. 25th to let positive cases resolve themselves.

Five NBA games are scheduled for national television on Christmas in the traditional slate that serves to spotlight the league as pro and football seasons are coming to a close.

NBA executives have said:

“Christmas is the NBA’s Super Bowl.”

Most of the NBA’s network partners rely heavily on the value from Christmas games. Last year, the league moved up their season from mid-January into late December to grant networks such as ABC/ESPN and NBA TV the opportunity to air their holiday games and as a break from the lockdown-delayed bubble season.

The NBA Finals in the bubble at the Walt Disney World complex in Bay Lake, Fla., were played in October 2020. Mid-October is when NBA seasons begin.

Several NBA executives signed off on agreeing the NBA needs to get through Christmas to ensure its lifeline of income stays alive and well.

On top of that, many problems arise in a halted season, inevitably impacting the length of the offseason, free agency and the NBA draft and even the summer league.

Players would also have to quarantine during a league stoppage, a measure that is not easy to enforce, especially around the holidays. The NBPA would have to agree to players being essentially forced into quarantine, and that idea has previously been met with much resistance.

Most of the NBA is vaccinated

The NBA is pointing out the lack of severity in this wave, as it has yet to hospitalize anyone affected. Tania Ganguli of the New York Times reported that NBPA president CJ McColllum outlined that most of the league is vaccinated:

“We were at 98, we might even be around 99 percent vaccinated right now,” McCollum said.

Of course, cases regardless of the severity are an issue nonetheless. But the vaccines seem to be doing their job as many players are completely asymptomatic.

The NBA is in need of players to replace their long list of players inducted into the health and safety protocols. Many executives are hoping the talks of ending the G League showcase early are not going to hold weight, allowing coaches to focus on preparing for the NBA trade deadline of Feb. 10th.

Does the NBA have a solution?

The league’s executives seem to have entirely shut out the idea of a bubble. Many are banking on the fact that a dominant majority of the league and staff are vaccinated and as such should not face serious health risks.

A qualm in their hopes stirred as Sacramento Kings interim coach Alvin Gentry tested positive, on Wednesday. The 67-year-old coach could be affected differently than many younger, healthy players. Other support staff may also be more susceptible than the players themselves.

Though many executives are headstrong with completing the holiday season for revenue, there does seem to be some disagreement. When asked about the status of the NBA, one executive explained he wanted to:

“Stop putting teams on the floor with a subpar product.”

In the Brooklyn Nets game on Saturday against the Orlando Magic, the only usual starter across all 10 players on the court was Blake Griffin. All nine other players had been changeups because of the giant holes created by COVID. To start seeing matchups like this, especially going into the holiday season, one can only wonder what the future of the season will hold.

Though quality is dwindling, a majority of executives still agree the NBA needs to prioritize its income and revenue over quality for the time being. The Christmas season simply brings in too much money to turn down, regardless of who is on the court.

It is starting to look like all the league can do is hope the cries of panic prove unwarranted.

According to Shams Charania of The Ahletic:

“The NBA will allow teams to sign one replacement player for each of its players who are under contract and test positive for COVI-19 — effective immediately through Jan. 19.”
Sources: The NBA will allow teams to sign one replacement player for each of its players who are under contract and tests positive for COVID-19 -- effective immediately through Jan. 19.

The rule negates the 15-man roster limit and the exemption requirements of having to have at least four players out for three games each before allowing a 10-day replacement. Actions like these are attempts by the league to do all they can to keep games going as planned.

It really looks like commissioner Adam Silver and the rest of the NBA are going to continue as per scheduling, at least through the holidays. What comes weeks later is going to depend much on how quickly COVID can fade.

ESPN story with @TimBontemps on NBA and NBPA agreeing on roster reinforcements to stave off game postponements and higher luxury tax bills:…

At least all of the best G League talent and NBA scouts are in Las Vegas together. If the COVID panic drifts away, the scouts are already in place to eye the best prospects to call up. With such a high population of stars currently out on health and safety protocols, the NBA may need all the help they can get.

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Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein
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