The 2019-20 NBA season has been on hold since March 11, but on Friday, the league and the players association finalized a plan to resume play on July 30 at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The 22 teams invited to the bubble will play eight "seeding games," and if necessary there will be a mini play-in tournament for the eighth seed in each conference. From there, they'll proceed with a normal postseason format.
But while a plan has been agreed upon, a surge in coronavirus cases in Florida is putting the entire operation under a new level of scrutiny. Multiple players have decided to sit out, including Avery Bradley, who specifically cited his son's history of respiratory problems. So far, 16 players have tested positive during the league's initial testing window.
With growing concern about the safety of the league's bubble environment, Adam Silver was asked numerous questions about the league's plans for keeping everyone safe during a conference call on Friday afternoon. Most notably, Silver said that the "level of concern has increased," but made it clear that the league is forging ahead.
"We are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus," Silver continued. "No options are risk-free right now. We have developed a safe and responsible plan. We're coming back because sports matter in our society. They bring people together when they need it the most."
Those statements are certainly up for debate.
One might argue, for example, that the desire to bring back sports and other aspects of our normal lives so quickly is one of the main reasons we're a situation where states such as Florida are setting new records for their number of COVID-19 cases, and we're forced into a false choice of having to live with the virus.
Likewise, besides the questionable decision of using the phrase "sports matter" right now, the cliche that sports bring people together is just a PR-friendly way of saying this is about money. All told, this attitude is exactly what players such as Kyrie Irving and Dwight Howard were worried about when they argued that bringing sports back would be a distraction.
Concerns and criticism aside, the league is moving ahead with this plan, and there doesn't seem to be anything that can stop it, save too many players sitting out or testing positive. What that benchmark would be, however, is unclear. Silver told reporters "that line hasn't been set yet," in terms of how many positive cases inside the bubble would shut things down.
In additional comments, Silver touched on the game experience, reaffirming that no fans will be allowed at the games. He said the league is planning to use unique camera angles and "enhanced audio" of players and coaches. Furthermore, there will be virtual concerts, all of which the league hopes will create a more enjoyable viewing experience in the empty gyms.