Basketball

NBA releases schedule, but Silver admits risk exists

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ByReuters
27/06/2020 at 00:21 | Updated 27/06/2020 at 00:24

Even as the NBA was unveiling its schedule for the conclusion of the regular season, commissioner Adam Silver admitted Friday that the league's "bubble" in central Florida can't be made totally safe from the coronavirus pandemic.

The league is bringing 22 of its 30 teams to the ESPN Wide World of Sports
Complex near Orlando, Fla., for the resumption of play. Each team will compete
in eight "seeding games" to complete the regular season, and the playoffs will
follow, all at the Disney site.

Action will commence July 30 with the Utah Jazz opposing the New Orleans
Pelicans, and the Los Angeles Clippers facing the Los Angeles Lakers in a
doubleheader that will air on TNT.

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The Jazz get to be one of the first teams returning after they were the team
that prompted the NBA's shutdown when All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested
positive for the coronavirus on March 11.

The season has been in hiatus since, but teams are set to arrive at the Disney
campus for training by July 11.

Earlier Friday, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association
finalized the protocols for the Disney "bubble." The agreement comes at a time
when COVID-19 cases are spiking in Florida.

Silver said on a conference call Friday, "We know that COVID-19 will be with
us for the foreseeable future, and we are left with no choice but to learn to
live with this virus. No options are risk-free right now. ...

"My ultimate conclusion is that we can't outrun the virus, and that this is
what we're gonna be living with for the foreseeable future -- which is why we
designed the campus the way we did. And so it's a closed network; and while
it's not impermeable, we are in essence protected from cases around us. At
least, that's the model.

"So for those reasons, we're still very comfortable being in Orlando."

The NBA and NBPA announced in a joint statement Friday that 16 of the 302 NBA
players who were examined Tuesday tested positive for the coronavirus.

Silver added that Florida setting a record with around 9,000 new COVID-19
cases reported Friday is worrying.

"The level of concern has increased, not just because of the increased levels
in Florida, but throughout the country," he said. "At least today, I believe,
29 of the 50 states have an increased number of cases. Of course, we designed
our campus, in essence, to isolate ourselves from whatever the level of cases
was in the surrounding community.

"But since we designed our initial protocol, we are continuing to work with
Disney on the testing of at least a subset of their employees that could
potentially be in the same room as our players, and anyone else who's tested
daily on our campus. So we are satisfied that, once we work through those
additional measures with Disney, we will continue to have a safe setting for
us to resume our season."

The commissioner wasn't ready to reveal the NBA's intentions should a COVID-19
outbreak occur among players.

"I think we want to get down on the ground and start to see how our testing's
working and how the protocols are working and then we'll make decisions as we
go," Silver said.

The league also will address the recent calls for social justice in the wake
of George Floyd's death.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul, the NBPA president, told reporters,
"We ... understand how powerful our voice is, and so even if we're back to
playing, we understand that our voice can still be heard, our message can
still be screamed loud and clear on an unbelievable platform.

"So just know that you're going to continue to hear us. Just know that. It's
never a 'shut-up-and-dribble' situation. You're going to continue to hear us
and see us."

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said the players have been in
discussions about what protests would be held and how they will be done.

"I can't imagine anything healthier than that," Roberts said. "I would've been
ashamed had there not been a conversation. If the players had been talking
about getting back to play and nothing else, frankly, as an African-American
woman, I would've been disappointed."

The regular-season games at the Disney complex will be held at three different
courts. At least four games will be played every day after the July 30
doubleheader.

Because only 88 of the 259 games remaining on the league's schedule will be
contested, the league had to figure out a way to determine which games to
play. The matchups were chosen chronologically, beginning with games that
would have been played March 11, with four caveats:

--A matchup couldn't feature a non-participating team. (The non-contending
Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta
Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors
will not participate.)

--A matchup couldn't result in either team going beyond the maximum of eight
games.

--A matchup couldn't prevent any participating team from having eight possible
matchups.

--If two teams facing off head-to-head twice in the season's resumption would
prevent either team from having a single matchup against another team that it
was due to play twice, the league set up one matchup against each of the other
teams.

Once the regular season is complete, if the ninth-place team in either
conference is within four games of the eighth-place team, a play-in
competition would be held. The eighth-place team would need to beat the
ninth-place team just once to advance, while the ninth-place team would need
to defeat the eighth-place team twice to qualify.

Once the 16-team field is set, the playoffs will proceed is normal, with all
matchups best-of-seven.

--Field Level Media

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