The NBA's bubble has chance to work, but it could quickly burst

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Unlike the NHL and MLB, the NBA is counting on a Disney World bubble to keep players safe during the resumption of the season. Can it work? Mike McGraw checks the details.

    Unlike the NHL and MLB, the NBA is counting on a Disney World bubble to keep players safe during the resumption of the season. Can it work? Mike McGraw checks the details. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 6/25/2020 6:26 PM

The NBA has launched a mission that most every suburban family can relate to -- planning a trip to Disney World.

This one is a bit larger scale. Participants on the most successful NBA teams will be staying for three months, and no one has to decide between spending the last day of their trip at Magic Kingdom or Epcot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The NBA's plan will be an interesting experiment for an unprecedented period in American sports by attempting to create a "bubble" to keep players isolated from the coronavirus.

In comparison, Major League Baseball is planning to use regular stadiums and the 60-game season will include travel, while players live at home. The NHL will select two hub cities where the 24 remaining teams will stay in hotels and compete in an expanded playoff system. Chicago remains a candidate to host pandemic playoff hockey.

In theory, the NBA's bubble sounds relatively pleasant. Players will be isolated, but they'll be allowed to play golf, visit the pool and watch other games. Eight teams will be staying at three different Disney World hotels, so they can socialize with players from other teams. There will be DJs, video game lounges, unspecified "lawn games," and a 24/7 food service room for every team.

No one is supposed to enter another player's room and players are encouraged to be outside as much as possible, so many of the lounge areas will be tents. And no one can leave, except for a few special circumstances.

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Among the 22 NBA teams still participating -- not the Bulls, obviously -- players are already supposed to be back in their home markets and tested for COVID-19. There have been some notable positive tests, such as Denver's Nikola Jokic, who is still in Serbia; and Indiana's Malcolm Brogdon. A few players have chosen not to participate in the restart, which the league has allowed.

Teams will arrive in Orlando between July 7-9 and only then will they begin practicing as a group. So this plan at least provides a chance to begin with a clean slate. There will be players that test positive, but they'll get time to isolate, recover and be disease-free by the time the Mouse Bubble is up and running.

Now, coronavirus cases are increasing in Florida, especially in the Orlando area. What seemed like a relatively safe destination a couple of months ago has turned into a COVID-19 hot spot.

And that's where the bubble is in danger of bursting. The NBA plans to isolate and test players, coaches, support staff, people who sit at the scorer's table, broadcasters and media members.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Resort staff members, on the other hand, the people who prepare the food, clean the hotel rooms, etc., will be living at home and interacting with the rest of Orlando. Also, the park has announced plans to reopen in July, although that decision figures to be revisited with the surge in cases.

The NBA is facing the same risks as everyone else in the world. The worst-case scenario is someone dies.

Most of the NBA players that have already tested positive, going back to Utah's Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell when the season was suspended on March 11, have reported no debilitating symptoms and have made a quick recovery.

But there have been reports around the country of younger COVID-19 victims experiencing serious lung damage even after recovery.

There's no way to social distance while playing basketball. There's also concern about coaches who fall into the higher-risk category, like San Antonio's Gregg Popovich, 71; Houston's Mike D'Antoni, 69; and New Orleans' Alvin Gentry, 65. So far, no coach has said he's going to skip the restart.

The NBA resumption is going to be interesting and a little scary. Will they make it through eight regular season games and four rounds of playoffs without losing players along the way?

Hard to say, but the bubble could work if players are diligent about following guidelines. Another concern is some teams are more motivated than others to finish the season.

Maybe the NBA shouldn't bring 22 teams to Orlando. Let's face it, if the restart was simply Clippers vs. the Lakers and the winner plays the Bucks, most everyone would be satisfied that a worthy champion was crowned.

Instead, the NBA will push about 360 players inside a delicate bubble, risk losing star players along the way and with no homecourt advantage, try to crown a champion by mid-October. Good luck.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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