The NBA did not postpone a game during the entire Disney World run from July to mid-October, continuing its COVID-paused season and successfully finishing the postseason while secured in its bubble.
A season without the bubble seems ready to burst.
It took until the second day of the season for a game to be postponed, a Rockets-Thunder matchup getting moved because Houston was decimated by players out to the COVID-19 protocol. Two weeks later, there are outbreaks and questions about the viability of another season before the vaccines are spread.
Sunday’s game between the Heat and Celtics was postponed because Miami could not field enough players. Boston, meanwhile, listed nine players as “out” on its injury report, seven due to the protocols, signaling they either have contracted the virus or been in close contact with someone contacted. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were among those listed.
“Because of ongoing contact tracing with the Heat, the team does not have the league-required eight available players to proceed with tonight’s game against the Celtics,” the league said in a statement.
The Warriors have not been affected since Draymond Green’s and James Wiseman’s starts to training camp and the season were delayed due to the protocols, but as they prepared to host the Raptors on Sunday night, there was wonder about how long this season can last.
“We’re obviously trying to make this work. We’re a business,” Steve Kerr said over Zoom from Chase Center. “I think all businesses out there are trying to make it work with whatever circumstances they have. … I’m confident that if we get to a point where we feel like this is endangering people’s health and people’s lives, we’ll stop.”
Kerr expressed confidence in commissioner Adam Silver and the league office, which has said it wants to push on.
“There are no plans to pause the season, and we will continue to be guided by our medical experts and health and safety protocols,” an NBA spokesman told ESPN.
Thousands are dying daily in this country from the coronavirus, and each major league has attempted to navigate its way around the pandemic. The NBA’s Orlando bubble was largely praised for its safety and effectiveness, but it opted to open up the league months later. That is the same decision the NFL made, the COVID protocols severely affecting gameplay and roster personnel — the Broncos played a game without a quarterback, the Browns essentially without a receiver because of the protocols.
Major League Baseball was more effective without the bubble, but there were still flare-ups and positive cases.
There were Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet to game-plan against, new offenses to draw up to try to free up Stephen Curry for a team that entered play 5-4. A possible playoff run felt far away, though, Sunday.
“Our team I know has been really disciplined about following the guidelines. And then at that point you just have to hope for the best,” Kerr said. “I know there’s people on both sides of the issue in terms of whether we should be playing or not. Personally, I feel lucky to be able to coach and for our team to be able to play. And I feel like the league is putting us in a good position where we’re getting constant testing, and I feel safe. But I’m also well aware of what’s happening around the country and the world.”