Well. That about covers it.
When the NBA makes available to its players upon their return something called Oura smart rings, rings that if you wear them give indications about your body and its overall health, a benefit that many of us thought only existed in magical fairy tales, you know the league is doing all that it can to protect its players’ and coaches’ well-being.
It wants basketball to be played again, badly.
Having reviewed the information on the whole of it, on the surroundings and circumstances, the accommodations and accoutrements and requirements for teams at the Disney complex in Orlando, Fla., in the resumption of NBA play after the COVID-19 stoppage, it’s easy to concur with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts’ conclusion.
She said: “… I can’t even think of anything else we could do short of hermetically seal the players that would keep them safe.”
The good health measures taken by the league and the gradual schedule it has set up for everyone involved is as comprehensive and conscientious as anyone could have imagined, maybe more so. And considering that the biggest reason for doing all of this at this particular point is to bow at the throne of the almighty dollar — the NBA is a business, after all — the league has done its bending as responsibly as possible.
The information that has come to light this week covers just about every detail, including what players and teams can and can’t do leading up to the proper resumption, how they can train, when they will leave for Orlando, where the teams will stay, how they will stay, who they will stay with, how limited their associations will be, who will cook their meals and how often, how and when the regular virus testing will be done, what amenities and activities will be available to them through their stay, what they will be subjected to if they temporarily leave the bubble and on and on and on.
The NBA will provide everything from mental health experts for counseling to laying down restrictions that will disallow players from spitting and shooting snot rockets on the court, prevent them from wiping the ball with their jersey or licking their fingers or messing too much with their mouth guards. If they eat a meal with a member of another team, they must do so outside, using appropriate social distancing. No one other than themselves is allowed in their individual hotel rooms. And regular sanitizing will take place.
While Disney chefs will prepare food for the players, day and night, those players also will be permitted to have their own personal chefs outside the bubble prepare food for them and have it delivered each day, if they want to have that done on their own, at their own expense.
NBA players are used to, in their normal daily lives, a strange mix requiring discipline in taking care of and training their bodies and allowing a level of luxury that’s a far reach from your average fan. The same will be true in the bubble.
The NBA will provide fine hotels for the 22 participating teams — with their accommodations divvied out according to their current place in the standings. The Bucks, the Lakers, the Raptors, the Clippers, the Celtics, the Nuggets, the Jazz and the Heat will stay at the Grand Destino, while the middle-seeded teams will live at the Grand Floridian and the current non-playoff outfits will be at the Yacht Club.
On-campus golfing will be available, as will fishing, bowling, lounging at misted pool cabanas, ping pong, meditation, yoga, salon services, lawn games, the works.
That part of it sounds like a vacation for which Joe and Jill Sixpack would pay tens of thousands of dollars.
But those safety precautions will be strictly enforced, too, as will the players’ confinement within the bubbled area. Players and personnel, with prior permission, will be able to leave the campus, but only under certain circumstances.
Combined, then, the restarted NBA season will take place in an environment that is part-holiday, part-work, part-luxury, part-boot camp, part-medical clinic, part-huddle up, part-don’t-touch-me, part-practice, part-seeding games, part-playoffs, part-swinging a pick in the salt mine, part-would-you-happen-to-have-any-Grey Poupon.
It’s got a bit of everything and a bit of nothing.
To the league’s credit, it is compelling no player to show up in Florida. Whoever elects not to go, whoever doesn’t feel comfortable reporting, as long as they decide within the next week, will not be penalized beyond losing a portion of their pay. There will be no fines assessed. Some players may be completely excused from participating — for reasons deemed valid by appointed authorities.
All told, the NBA has stayed true to its careful approach to handling matters responsibly, straight from the time Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus in March until now, as it slates its return. The safest thing of all would be to cancel the season, but it can be argued that NBA players, monitored and tested as they will be at Disney, will be safer on the complex than they would be at home.
Think about it: the league is offering players proximity alarms, monitors that when worn will notify a player when he is inside of six feet of another individual wearing the device for more than five seconds. For the players, the monitor is optional, for all other team and league staff it is required. Moreover, if at any point anyone tests positive, they will be treated and quarantined.
Masks and proper distancing will be required at all times, except when those inside the bubble are playing games, scrimmaging, working out, swimming, doing other physical activities, eating, staying in their rooms or otherwise isolated.
After the first round of the playoffs, limited family members or guests can enter the bubble and stay at a connected player’s expense. Their meals will be free.
All told, if games were to be played, and they will be, this is the best the NBA could do. The league is saying it will bring attention and sustained action to issues of social justice, aiming to battle systemic racism and grow greater civic engagement, concerns important to so much of the league and the country as a whole.
With significant emphasis on safety, health and other important issues, the NBA is making the best of a season ruptured by — and nearly lost to — brutal conditions far beyond its control.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.