Tuesday marked yet another milestone in the NBA’s seemingly inexorable return to play, as league guidelines allowed teams such as the Utah Jazz to bolster their ranks by having up to 10 coaches/support staff within the Zions Bank Basketball Campus practice facility at a time.
And Wednesday is slated to see workouts increase from four to eight players on the court at a time.
The moves are supposed to represent benchmarks in apparent lockstep with the idea that teams — like society at large — are making progress toward total health and the elimination of COVID-19 within their ranks.
Except that hasn’t really been the case.
Coronavirus developments from around the league continue to make critics of the NBA’s return plan ever more convinced that participants are deluding themselves if they believe the campus “bubble” environment set up in the Disney World complex near Orlando, Fla., will be impervious to the pandemic.
For starters, the Brooklyn Nets reopened their practice facility Tuesday after shutting it down for several days prior in the aftermath of positive COVID-19 tests for DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
Jordan tweeted on Monday that “As a result of this, I will not be in Orlando for the resumption of the season.”
“Given that I have experienced symptoms, including fever and chest tightness, it is unclear on whether or not I’ll be able to participate in Orlando,” he said.
Nets wing Wilson Chandler has already opted against returning, citing personal reasons.
“”As difficult as it will be to not be with my teammates, the health and well-being of my family has to come first,” Chandler told ESPN’s Malika Andrews.
Meanwhile, both ESPN and The Athletic reported that two members of the Denver Nuggets’ traveling party tested positive for the novel coronavirus, prompting that team to shut down its practice facility at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday.
This comes on top of Nuggets center Nikola Jokic having his return from Serbia to the United States delayed by his own positive test for the coronavirus last week.
All NBA players were supposed to have reported to their home markets by Monday, June 22, to take part in COVID-19 testing. The NBA subsequently reported that out of 302 players tested, 16 came back positive.
New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin told reporters on Tuesday that three of those were players on his team.
Griffin declined to name the players, citing privacy laws, but noted that all three have been in isolation since.
The Pelicans exec noted that no other players have tested positive subsequently, and noted that the system worked as designed — to catch positive tests more than a month before seeding games are scheduled to take place.
That said, he knows there is no spinning the fact that some teams will be hurt by not having everyone available as a result of the pandemic.
“From a basketball standpoint, I think you’re going to see COVID have an enormous impact on teams and even some of the teams that went into the bubble as a playoff seed,” Griffin told reporters. “You’ve seen that Brooklyn has been really damaged by the COVID situation. So again, this is something where we’re all at the mercy of the same enemy.”
Wednesday marks the deadline for teams to submit their Orlando rosters to the NBA, giving players a little more time to decide if they are on board or not. In addition to the likes of Chandler and Jordan, those who have already publicly announced they will not play include the Blazers’ Trevor Ariza, the Wizards’ Davis Bertans, the Lakers’ Avery Bradley, and the Mavericks’ Willie Cauley-Stein.