Marc Stein: A knock on the heavy brown door of my first-floor hotel room at Walt Disney World finally came Sunday night just before 10 p.m. This was the all-business knock I was waiting for. Three technicians from BioReference Laboratories wearing white coats and face shields, and accompanied by an N.B.A. representative, had arrived to administer my first-ever coronavirus test.
Marc Stein: According to the rules in the N.B.A.’s corner of Disney World, no one is allowed inside the 314-square-foot room I am restricted to through Sunday. So I slid a chair up to the doorway to receive a swab of each nostril and my throat. The sticks were snapped and placed in a tube, then stored in a crate to take back to the lab. The swabs, roughly five hours after I checked in, took less than a minute.
Closer to 20 journalists, compared to the anticipated 10, have been approved to enter, a reflection of the considerable curiosity surrounding 22 teams living and playing at a single site without fans. That includes journalists from The Associated Press, The Athletic, The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News, The Los Angeles Times, Southern California News Group, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, The Washington Post and The New York Times. A like number of journalists from the league’s official media partners, ESPN and Turner, is also expected, including one reporter from each who was allowed to arrive early to complete their quarantines before teams started arriving on July 7: Malika Andrews (ESPN) and Chris Haynes (Turner/Yahoo).
Tania Ganguli: Fourth COVID test administered just now. Will have three more after this. These nice people are my closest human contact this week, which is why they have so much protective gear on.
Amid concerns among teams over the potential for false positives impacting players returning from COVID-19, the NBA on Wednesday updated its protocols to add an antibody test for players and staff who have recovered from the virus, according to a memo obtained by ESPN. Because people who have recovered from COVID-19 can still have dead virus cells in their system be detected by tests, the league has now included the antibody test as part of its protocol for players and staff returning from the virus, according to the memo, obtained by ESPN.
As the league has resumed play inside the league's bubble at Walt Disney World Resort, teams have worried about the potential for prominent players to have false positive tests -- particularly during the postseason, sources told ESPN. On a recent call with the league's general managers, the question of what would happen if a false positive test takes place on a game day was raised to the league, sources said. At least one player who contracted COVID-19, recovered and was subsequently cleared to travel to Orlando had registered several negative tests in Orlando and cleared quarantine upon arrival but later tested positive, sources said.
Shams Charania: Nets forward Michael Beasley tested positive for coronavirus, returned home and his roster status is up in the air, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
Michael C. Wright: Mike D'Antoni on Russell Westbrook's revelation today: "He said what he said, and that’s what we’re dealing with. A lot of teams are dealing with it, but we’re getting through it as a team."
Shams Charania: Sources: Two NBA players have tested positive out of the 322 tested on NBA campus on July 7.
Chris Haynes: Of the 322 players tested for Covid-19 since arriving on July 7, two players tested positive, the league announces. pic.twitter.com/MMatWQUbkd
Lowry is certainly going to give it. In all matters. As a member of the players’ association competition committee, he worked with the league in setting up every facet of life for the 22 teams that are now gathered near Orlando for the resumption of the suspended season later this month. He was involved in developing testing protocols, scheduling, what is allowed and what’s not, and has made it clear to his teammates how important that is. He is the franchise’s conduit to a healthy existence.
“It was interesting to come up with some of the concepts and to talk that over, and understand (not just) what we’re trying to do but how we’re trying to do it, and make sure that it’s done the right way for all the players, coaches, and it’s (as safe as) we possibly can do it,” Lowry said in his first group interview since the league suspended the season in March.
“I think that we’ve done a good job so far with the safety aspects, the health aspects. I think there’s definitely going to be some adjustments that need to be made, but that’s the one thing about our league and our professionals, is that we make adjustments on the fly and we’re able to.”
One month ago, sports' use of those COVID-19 tests — and the lab capacity needed to process them — was thought to be incidental. But now, the United States is seeing more than 50,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day. Major commercial labs are struggling to keep up with the high demand, causing delays in turnaround times. And experts wonder if the return of sports could burden an increasingly-fragile testing infrastructure. "That's been a big concern for me, as I’ve been seeing different leagues and their plans for reopening," said Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at New York University and Bellevue Hospital.
BioReference Laboratories, which has partnered with MLS and NBA to process tests for their bubble sites in Florida, said in a statement Friday that it is processing tests within 72 hours with an estimated capacity of 70,000 tests per day. "We have enough capacity right now to test the people we’ve made our commitments to," Jon Cohen, the company's executive chairman, told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. "If you have a relationship with BioReference, and we have made a commitment to you, we’re going to deliver on that commitment."
The NBA is also supporting testing research through partnerships with the Yale School of Public Health and the Mayo Clinic, among others. MLB said it is offering free COVID-19 tests and antibody tests to health care workers and first responders in its home cities. And BioReference said in a news release it is working with MLS to provide antibody tests for the public in Orlando. Despite those good-faith efforts, sports risk losing the battle of perception as long as athletes are receiving multiple tests in a virtual bubble, while citizens in hard-hit areas wait in their cars or long lines for hours, often in vain, for the same test. "I think sports in general will be an easy target to say, why are we doing this?" said Roberts. "But you could say that about a hundred things. You don’t need your nails done. You don’t need your tacos. But those are obviously part of the economy."
Binney, the incoming professor at Emory, said leagues must ultimately ask themselves a simple question: Are they doing more harm or good by returning? The answer, of course, is complicated. And changing all the time. "I think that pro sports, with the right setup and the right logistics, can come back still without having a negative effect on the community around them," Binney said. "But it’s getting harder."
Tania Ganguli: To clarify on the Lakers' testing situation, Dwight Howard needs an extra test because he did not travel with the team so that's why he was not available today. Danny Green's test had an error and there should be more clarity on his situation later tonight.
James Ham: Two of the Kings players who tested positive early on have had two consecutive clean tests and are heading to Orlando. Walton would not confirm who those players are.
Tim Reynolds: Gregg Popovich - the coach of the USA Basketball men’s team - says he’s been checking the coronavirus response in Japan, and is optimistic when it comes to the hope for an Olympics in Tokyo next summer. Filling a roster around the NBA schedule, he concedes “will be trickier.”
Jason Anderson: Kings coach Luke Walton says four members of the team's 35-person travel party did not accompany team to Orlando and have not cleared NBA protocols after testing positive for COVID-19. He would not say who, but Buddy Hield, Alex Len and Jabari Parker all confirmed positive tests.
Oleh Kosel: Alvin Gentry on whether all the Pelicans who traveled to Orlando tested negative: "Everyone's here. I don't really know the details of everything, but I know all of our guys are here and they're ready to go."
As NBA teams get situated in the Orlando bubble, one question that has persisted since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is not only what happens if a player tests positive for the virus but also what lingering effects might follow. "There are unknown effects it has on lung capacity, unknown effects it has on cardiac health," said one NBA general manager of a team entering the bubble, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "What if a 24-year-old catches it in Orlando and, in 14 days, he quarantines and is fine, but then he has these everlasting heart problems? [Or he] gets winded so easily, or he becomes a little bit too susceptible to fatigue. ...These are all the unknowns."
Each case will be handled based on its own needs, but John DiFiori, the NBA's Director of Sports Medicine, told ESPN that the timeline for any player to return from a confirmed positive case is at least two weeks. "Everyone needs to understand that if someone were to test positive, it's quite likely that they won't return to the court for a minimum of two weeks -- minimum," said DiFiori, who is also the Chief of Primary Sports Medicine and attending physician at New York City's Hospital for Special Surgery. "It may be even a little longer than that, depending on the individual circumstances, and then you need some time to get reconditioned.”
Are NBA players' hearts more at risk? "We have no reason to believe that any athlete is at higher risk for a complication and cardiac complications related to the coronavirus than anyone else," DiFiori said. "There's no reason that we know that would suggest that right now."
Ira Winderman: Goran Dragic just said Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn are not with the team. "Hopefully Bam can come and KNunn and we can be a whole team and make some damage.” Two Heat players remained behind due to COVID testing. Heat did not identify the players left back.
The Dallas Mavericks owner is being recognized for his transformative leadership. As the threat of COVID-19 spread across North Texas, Cuban stood up as a prominent hero for those on the front line—directing his NBA team and its foundation to do hands-on work throughout the community. As Black Lives Matters protests formed in Dallas—and across the globe—he hosted courageous conversations about systemic racism.
The entire NBA operation sits on a foundation of daily testing and then processing results of those tests quickly. Early in the pandemic, the NBA was concerned about having enough tests to administer that daily regimen. While supply issues appear to have been resolved, processing those tests is not quite as simple.
Unlike Major League Baseball, so far teams have not seen significant delays or problems receiving test results, according to sources that spoke with NBC Sports. But there have been hiccups here and there. In the 24 hours before departure for Orlando, one NBA team had its tests accidentally sent to the wrong lab, according to league sources. The mistake forced the entire team to retake the coronavirus tests later in the day, delaying their trip to Orlando by several hours. “This is the new normal,” said one official of a team dealing with testing blips.
If the on-site clinic can’t handle an NBA-related emergency, does the NBA feel comfortable about taking a bed from someone in the general public? “It’s not so much that everybody who gets COVID is going to die from it,” Rasmussen says, “it’s that when the hospitals are overwhelmed and there’s no place for people to go, more people are going to die that wouldn't have necessarily died otherwise.
The weirdest moment, Monty Williams said, was getting on the airplane. Flights are typically commonplace for the Suns, who crisscrossed the United States — and hopped the border to Mexico City and Toronto — over the first 65 games of the 2019-20 season. But Williams had not been on one since mid-March, with the NBA halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was just quieter on the plane,” Williams said during a videoconference with reporters Thursday evening. “I think that’s just because everybody has masks on. You can’t hear each other talk. … Even when you have a big mouth like mine, it still is a bit muffled with the mask on.”
“We have a plan that we put in place that gives me a bit of structure to use as a template every day,” Williams said. “At the same time, I want to try to feel the gym and see if I can push a little bit more or pull back. … “I’m probably a bit more cautious than I’ve ever been, just because we’ve had so much time off. But the plan is in place. It may be modified a little bit, but I want to try to listen and learn as much as I can. Because, it’s basically a new season, a new universe for all of us who are trying to get our guys in shape.”
Fred Katz: Troy Brown on heading to Florida amidst spiking COVID numbers: "At the end of the day, we have a job, and we have to do our jobs." Says he thinks the NBA has done a good job of putting players in a safe environment. “If people don’t wanna be here, you don’t have to."
The Denver Nuggets expect All-Star center Nikola Jokic to arrive in Orlando from his native Serbia to join the team for the NBA restart in the next couple of days, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Jokic tested positive for COVID-19 in June, but has since tested negative consecutively and is cleared to enter the campus at Walt Disney World.
This is a solid step for the organization after the initial shock of its franchise player contracting the virus outside of the United States. Jokic is in good health, sources said.
Ava Wallace: Garrison Mathews, Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton did not travel with the Wizards to Orlando, per sources. Mathews for personal reasons. Bryant and Payton have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mavericks players are currently awaiting results for their COVID-19 tests they took upon their arrival in Florida as a part of the NBA’s plan for a safe return to play. Players must test negative for COVID-19 twice, at least 24 hours apart, as part of the mandatory 48-hour quarantine.
Scott Agness: Malcolm Brogdon, who tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago, is with the Pacers at Disney, per his IG. pic.twitter.com/23izwqMpG4
Enter Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who used a video conference with reporters Tuesday to urge the league's younger players to take the coronavirus seriously even if they don't experience any symptoms. "It’s really concerning because unfortunately, those (asymptomatic cases) are the ones that (are) the problem," Smart said. "Because you go out there and you’re asymptomatic, you don’t know it and you go to your Grandma or you have a kid and go home to your kid, your wife, she’s pregnant, you never know. "You don’t know because you don’t feel anything, so you’re like, 'I don’t need to get tested. I feel fine.' Then you’re spreading it and now it’s everywhere and it’s out of control even more than what it is."
Later this month, the NBA will finally return to action after four and a half months at rest, inside the semi-permeable bubble at Disney World. Major League Baseball and the WNBA will return around that same time. Both American soccer leagues, the MLS and NWSL, will have been back for weeks. The leagues will face scrutiny unlike any other time in their history as they try to play amid a global pandemic. While the United States tries to stabilize itself as the novel coronavirus spreads, jumping from one epicenter to another, sports will make the biggest bet yet: That it can out-smart the virus long enough to play some semblance of a season for each of the respective leagues.
Health and safety will be of the utmost concern. There will be symptom-tracking rings and social-distancing guidelines. There will be testing — lots of it. The NBA has released a 113-page manual detailing each stage leading up to the deployment of teams into Orlando and then what they’ll have to do on the ground. While the leagues have rightfully devoted much attention to many stages of the return, there has been one overlooked part of sports that is also worth a discussion. With sports returning, what happens to the locker room?
Locker rooms, and clubhouses, are central to any team. They are changing rooms and meeting rooms. They are destinations for players when they get to the arena and the last port before they leave. They are meant for uplifting moments and for killing time. For pregame speeches and halftime adjustments. They are also usually small, enclosed spaces that cluster dozens of people together for prolonged periods of time, encouraging them to feel at ease. In normal times, that is ideal; a place that can feel like a comfortable salon for the professional athlete. During a pandemic, it seems like a petrie dish for the spread of the virus.
Roy Parry: Magic CEO Alex Martins said the team is about to enter its second 24-hour quarantine period in the NBA bubble and will undergo a second COVID-19 test today... if all goes well, and he expects that it will, the team is scheduled to practice Thursday at 1 p.m.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Brooklyn Nets forward Taurean Prince has tested positive for the coronavirus and will sit out the NBA’s restart in Orlando, sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Prince is the fourth Nets player – including DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and Wilson Chandler – to opt-out of the league’s restart. Nets are eligible to sign four substitute players. Team departed this evening for Orlando.
When asked why specifically he thought the league shouldn't resume play, he provided a poignant response. “I think [the spread of the virus], and then also I feel like there's a lot of other stuff going on," Milton said. "There are issues going on right now in the world that are way bigger than a sport, way bigger than the game of basketball. I feel like we're on the cusp of finally having people tune in and really try to listen and try to understand more about the things that are happening in our country. I feel like the moment is too big right now and I don't want the game of basketball to overshadow it.”
The sports “bubbles” are also home to experimental new tech and trials of new ways of testing for COVID-19. They might also tell us more about how the virus spreads. “There’s a lot of interest in sports coming back, and they could also be a plan for how we bring back universities, colleges and school safely. It’s the same concept, with a lot of people in close proximity to each other,” says Priya Sampathkumar, an epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic who’s working on an NBA antibody study. “It’s trying it out — if we can’t keep them safe, maybe it’s not safe to open up.”
The closed-off NBA bubble is dedicated to basketball, but it’s also a makeshift COVID-19 research laboratory. The league is helping trial a saliva-based COVID-19 test, and any players who opt in will help the Yale School of Public Health validate their testing method. Players in Orlando will be tested almost every day using the typical method: having a swab shoved deep inside their nose. Players who enroll in the Yale study, though, will also give a saliva sample along with each test. The team will compare the two types of tests and check if the saliva test is as accurate as the nose and throat swab.
The league is putting together a group of experts to think through research approaches to the bubble, Sampathkumar says. “They’re willing to share the data that they come up with, and are asking for input on the type of data they should collect,” she says. The information is important for the league itself because it helps it manage the health and safety of its employees. But learning more about the virus and how it spreads is useful for everyone, not just professional athletes holed up at Disney World. “That could be really valuable information,” Rasmussen says. “And that could be extrapolated to the larger population.”
In a virtual interview with Fortune Brainstorm Health, Silver said the NBA expects more positive coronavirus cases to pop up as teams arrive to the NBA campus at Walt Disney World resort this week. But once teams arrive, all personnel will be tested and must quarantine for at least two days. "We won't be surprised when they first come down to Orlando if we have some additional players test positive," Silver told Fortune Brainstorm Health. "What would be most concerning is once players enter this campus and then go through our quarantine period, then if they were to test positive or if we were to have any positive tests, we would know we would have an issue." "... We would know that there's in essence a hole in our bubble or that our quarantine or our campus is not working in some way," Silver added later. "So that would be very concerning."
Silver said the NBA's campus with daily testing and guidance from medical experts is "as protected as possible from the environment around us." "So on paper, and dealing with our experts, this should work," Silver said. "But we shall see. I'm confident based on the positive cases we are seeing from our players and the general public around the country that it will be safer on this campus than off this campus in part because we are going to be doing daily testing. But again this virus has humbled many so I am not going to express any higher level of confidence than we are following the protocols and we hope it works as we designed it."
Silver reiterated that the league likely will not be forced to shut down again due to one potential positive coronavirus test inside campus. However, a spread could bring the NBA to a halt again. "I think we do have the ability to trace, of course to try to understand where that positive case came from," Silver said of any positive cases inside the Walt Disney World campus. "We can actually analyze the virus itself and try to track whether if there is more than one case, if it's in essence the same virus and same genetic variation of the virus that is passed from one player to another or two people have gotten it on the campus independently. So those are all things that we are looking at."
Tim Reynolds: Magic updates: Al-Farouq Aminu did not accompany the Magic into the bubble today for rehab-related reasons. Another Magic player has tested positive and he - name not disclosed - is not at Disney yet. Markelle Fultz has a personal matter that he has been excused to address.
Kyle Neubeck: Embiid says he was not a fan of the Orlando restart initially: “I hated the idea. I feel like with everything that’s been going on, it’s unfortunate with what’s going on...all I wanna do is stay safe and stay healthy, keep the people around me safe.”
Derek Bodner: Joel Embiid on restarting the season in Orlando in a bubble: "I'm not a big fan of the idea. But then again, I'm going to do my job. I'm not going to let the city down...I don't like the idea." Embiid says he's not confident in everyone following protocols and being responsible.