The NBA is starting to release its schedule, and the new season is just about upon us. This will be a season unlike any other with the current state of the world. With COVID-19 still rampant in most parts of the country, the league will have many new challenges that will be very different than the sterile setting of Orlando this summer.
Last season, the league and its partners had been rightly commended for their excellent work to pull off the bubble. It concluded without a glitch, and that is the goal for this upcoming full season. However, the league has already seen an outbreak of positive cases since modestly opening up facilities this week. Forty-eight players tested positive for coronavirus out of 546 tested during the initial testing phase from November 24th to the 30th.
Another report from Shams Charania and a memo sent out by the league said that the NBA has come to an agreement on the policies and procedures that will be put into place to try and keep everyone safe without disrupting the quality of the product in all thirty arenas. Now, they will not have the luxury of the bubble closing the players and staff off from the outside world. They will be dealing with cross-country travel and the myriad of complications that come with it.
According to their memo, the league is going to be allowing fans in the arenas but going to do so at a 25%-50% capacity limit. Additionally, the fans are required to wear masks and socially distance throughout the entirety of the game. Their goal is to inch back to normalcy but, of course, it all depends on how the pandemic progresses goes over the next months. It is important to note no matter what the league’s intentions are, the local city and state regulations will always supersede the plans of the league. For example, Los Angeles and the Lakers and Clippers have already said no fans in the arena until further notice. Boston may be in a similar place along with other larger metropolitan cities across the country.
We have seen this with a number of other sports already. It has brought on major challenges with daily testing, contact tracing, and quarantine isolation. The MLB was able to make it through a shortened season, but it did come with many questions and issues along the way. The NFL is just past the half way point with their season and still have been chugging along without major concern.
Fans of the NBA will have to take note of how these two leagues have progressed. It will basically be a schedule at a normal pace with hopes that no players test positive for the virus. If players do test positive, the team will be expected to keep on playing with the rest of the healthy roster.
The other change would be the fan experience close to the court. The league will be requiring all fans who are sitting 30 feet or closer to the court to test negative within 48 hours of the game. They are also banning food and beverage 30 feet from the court as well as giving the team an option to have a plexiglass barrier between the fans and the bench. All of these measures are trying to ensure that there can be fans while not jeopardizing the players health and safety.
The fact of the matter will be that if Jayson Tatum or Kemba Walker test positive then they’ll be missing a few games out with COVID-19 until a negative test comes back. That means not much ability to train or stay active given the symptoms we have seen other athletes across the sporting world including shortness of breath and heart issues.
It will definitely be weird seeing an empty TD Garden for games this year, but the league has tried to put in the steps to make this a successful season. Who knows what this Celtics team will look like if positive cases strike, but they are knocking on the door at a championship. Let’s just cross our fingers and hope for a seamless season.