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NBA prepared for wave of positive COVID-19 tests prior to Orlando

In this Oct. 23, 2019, file photo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a news conference at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The 22 NBA teams getting ready to depart for Orlando in two weeks began mandatory COVID-19 testing on Tuesday, with the Phoenix Suns among the teams.

As case numbers continue to escalate recently across the country, most notably in Arizona, Texas and Florida, the league is ready tor positive tests to come in.

“We’re gonna have a lot of positive tests I think when the testing comes in in the next two days, but the league is prepared for that they say,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta Tuesday. “And they believe that in this next couple of weeks they’re going to get everybody healthy, they’re going to establish their bubble and the overwhelming majority from what I believe from my conversations are going to go to Orlando.

“Will it hold together? Will they be able to stay safe? That I cannot predict.”

As Windhorst notes, the hope is for the league to “establish their bubble,” meaning that everyone traveling to Orlando will have been tested a handful of times and, if necessary, quarantined until they are healthy. That obviously overlooks the risk of contracting the virus itself but is the risk those players, staff and others appear ready to take.

The additional hurdle in getting the bubble sorted is getting to Orlando, where more rounds of testing will get through once teams arrive. The NBA can further contain any additional positive tests, but the chance remains of an internal outbreak within the bubble. Teams will get to Walt Disney World in the second week of July, giving them a little under three weeks before games begin.

Now, that is a lot to accomplish, and some will argue that’s impossible to do without too many people getting sick. The bottom line for the NBA is they need players to believe in the plan.

The soft deadline of players deciding if they want to go or not is on Wednesday, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, while the deadline teams are looking at specifically is July 1.

But players can still leave at their choosing. Once players are in Orlando, that’s where everything needs to remain established.

“It’s about can you maintain confidence in the players that they are going to be healthy once you get there. Because we could see guys just decide to roll out of Orlando and say, ‘Forget this.'” Windhorst said.

What establishes there and has been established already according to Windhorst is confidence in commissioner Adam Silver, the one thing that Windhorst believes the league needs to maintain to keep the bubble alive, beyond avoiding an outbreak.

“When I ask them about the bubble, they say, ‘We trust Adam to keep us safe.’ They trust Adam. They all say this. Referees, players, executives, coaches: ‘I trust Adam,'” he said. “They continue to say that to me. That trust is incredibly important and valuable but it’s also fragile and that’s one of the things that we’re going to have to wait and see how it plays out.”


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