“Now, having said that, do I think our guys are going to be in a bubble for six or seven months? Hell no. It’s not going to happen. I think what we’re going to have to do is figure out creatively how we can have bubble-like the environments that allow us to play the number of games that we believe we need to play in order to complete the season and crown a champion. If nothing else, we’ve learned that we have to be creative and we have been creative, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing right now. It’s something that no one would have thought about or had to think about five months ago.”
Inside the Grand Floridian hotel, out of the soupy Florida heat, a wave of relief washed over Michele Roberts. For months, Roberts, the Executive Director of the NBA’s players association, worked tirelessly with league officials to piece together its return. Medical protocols needed to be worked out. Then, the financials. Yet even when an agreement had been hammered out, Roberts worried: How would players respond to months of isolation?
Not bad, it turns out. “In some ways I didn't think it would be as forgiving as it has been,” Roberts told SI in an extended interview. There were the expected complaints. Players didn’t enjoy the 48-hour hard quarantine they received upon arrival. “I think had it been longer than that,” Roberts said, “then it may have been more problematic.” Those buzzing Roberts tell her how much they miss friends, family. “The good news is that's pretty much 99% of what I hear in terms of complaints,” Roberts said. “And at the end of the day, the guys have said, ‘I got to go to work. I'm at work, I'm doing my job.’”
On the scheduling, Roberts has issues. The NBA Finals could stretch as long as mid-October, affording at least two teams little time to recover. “My guess is we'll probably not start until early 2021,” Roberts said. But months of work on this bubble has convinced Roberts that as long as COVID-19 is still spreading, a bubble is the only way to play.
“Right now I don't see how sports can be played outside of a bubble concept,” Roberts said. “I don't see that, given the state of where we are. Given the absence of a vaccine. Because as long as this thing spreads the way it spreads, the only way you can stop the spread from impacting their ability to perform, and this is at any job, is to isolate. Keep people separated and maintain as much distance as possible.”
No fans, no home-court advantage, but safety was the main priority when deciding to resume the 2019-20 season that had been on hold since March 11. The NBA has achieved that so far, but would the league be willing to start next season in a bubble environment? "I don't think you can discount nor will I say we have discounted the possibility of continuing this protocol for the next season," National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts in an Friday interview with SiriusXM NBA Radio.
"Now no one wants to be in the bubble for six straight months, that’s insane. So it may be multiple bubbles, it may be multiple bubbles with a period of time away from the bubble and maybe we won’t have a bubble at all, but for sure, that is the scenario or those are scenarios that are being considered because, again, the virus does dictate what our restrictions will and will not be."
Suns general manager James Jones told The Arizona Republic he "trust(s) the judgement and decision of the NBA/NBPA's leadership" when asked about the possibility of playing next season in a bubble. "They've done such a good job with giving us protocols and ways to stay safe," Suns coach Monty Williams said. "Nobody's gotten the virus. So it's one that I think every sport can duplicate. As it relates to doing it again, I'd be all for it, but I think we got to figure out a way to involve our families."
Is the Orlando bubble a possible destination for the eight teams left out of the restart to run offseason training camps once the first batch of 22 teams are eliminated? The NBPA has no interest in that idea, sources said. It's a non-starter. The inevitable solution for the eight teams left out of Orlando: The NBA and NBPA agreeing upon voluntary workouts in the team facilities, sources said. The NBPA won't agree to mandatory reporting for players on the eight teams outside of the restart but will eventually allow it on a voluntary level, sources said. Several of the teams are frustrated and angry over how far they feel they're falling behind the teams in the bubble, and are aggressively voicing that to the league office.
We’re a ways off from next season, but league sources have told me that the NBA is looking at options that include creating regional bubbles, should the COVID-19 pandemic still prevent normal business in the fall. Teams would report to a bubble for short stints—around a month—which would be followed by 1-2 weeks off. Ideally, the NBA would like to play an 82-game schedule that starts in December. A December start would allow the league to end the season in late June, putting the NBA back on a normal schedule and, importantly, not compete with the Olympics next summer. The players union is expected to take issue with that, preferring teams, particularly those making deep playoff runs, have more time off.
Adrian Wojnarowski: NBA’s priority remains to get fans into arenas next season. Regional pods for extended periods are among brainstorms, but preference would be that those are finite in length, sources said. For example: A month or two inside, a month out. Early in planning; everything's on table.
Australian NBA star Joe Ingles is open to playing an entire NBA season inside a bubble if the coronavirus continues to effect sport next year. He even revealed league officials had already spoken to the players about the potential of tutors for their children.
Ingles said NBA officials had spoken to players about how schooling may work for their children if the league was forced to continue in the bubble for a season. “There is a lot that would have to happen, but there have been discussion of bringing in tutors and a little classroom school,” Ingles said. “That is the level that it would have to be at, but the NBA is one of the best businesses in the world, and if anyone was going to pull it off, the NBA could.”
Ingles believes the main challenge of extending the bubble for a full season, which would be a minimum of six months, would be including loved ones. “Guys aren’t going without their families,” he said. “We were talking about this the other night my significant others would be my family. But for one of my teammates it might be his brother or his mum, so finding the balance of how many people and where you do that to have enough accommodation for 30 teams, including 40 staff and players in our group and that was a really small number that the NBA were trying to keep tight so we weren’t having too many people. If you are there all year you have to bring extra people.”
As the NBA prepares to officially restart its season in its bubble inside Walt Disney World Resort on Thursday -- and other sports, most notably Major League Baseball, struggle to deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic -- National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said returning to a bubble might be the only feasible way for the NBA to complete next season, as well.
"If tomorrow looks like today, I don't know how we say we can do it differently," Roberts told ESPN in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. "If tomorrow looks like today, and today we all acknowledge -- and this is not Michele talking, this is the league, together with the PA and our respective experts saying, 'This is the way to do it' -- then that's going to have to be the way to do it."
In a call with the players back in May, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said money generated from live game attendance could account for up to 40 percent of the league's annual revenue. Roberts said the two sides are "beginning some very high-level discussions with respect to what the potential issues are," and said the laborious process that was necessary for the NBA and the union to hash out how to put the bubble together, and then actually go through the process of doing so, "took just about all of the oxygen out of the room."
November 26, 2020 | 5:47 pm EST Update
Adrian Wojnarowski: Free agent F/C Frank Kaminsky has agreed to a one-year deal with the Sacramento Kings, his agent @Kevin Bradbury of BDA Sports tell ESPN.
James Ham: According to source, Jeffries contract is one-year guaranteed deal with a team option for year two. It is with the Kings, not a two-way. Big step up for Jeffries who played very well in the bubble.
After spending some days in Athens and almost all of the offseason in Greece, Giannis Antetokounmpo is set to return to the United States on Saturday, as the NBA world awaits his decision about whether or not he will sign the supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Greek Freak used his time in his native country to the fullest, from practicing at Olympiacos’ facilities alongside Greek basketball legend Theo Papaloukas to pairing up with COVID-19 volunteers and donating tens of food boxes for the impoverished people in his old neighborhood of Sepolia.
November 26, 2020 | 3:06 pm EST Update
In his 2004 book, Embry describes himself hearing a slightly different story in a different setting, with Laimbeer as narrator and Embry himself as old-but-intimidating comeback-deliverer: In a different conversation with Laimbeer, he told me that after every game in the [Richfield] Coliseum, as a sign of unity, each of the Pistons would spit on my car, which they passed en route to their bus. He stepped away from me as he told the story, not quite sure how I would react, and he seemed genuinely surprised when I said, “Good for them. It probably needed to be washed anyway.” Embry also says his wife, Terri, was particularly displeased about the spitting because it was all on the passenger side. Whichever version of this story you prefer, it sure sounds like 1989 Pistons — all of them — spat on a car together.