Basketball

Paul, NBA coaches 'grateful' for bubble as MLB grapples with coronavirus

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ByReuters
27/07/2020 at 21:28 | Updated 27/07/2020 at 21:30

Chris Paul had just finished Monday's practice when he was informed of the coronavirus outbreak on the Miami Marlins, forcing the postponement of at least two Major League Baseball games and an emergency call between all 30 team owners.

Paul, the Oklahoma City All-Star point guard and National Basketball Players
Association president, said the situation reminded him of the NBA in March,
when a Thunder-Jazz game was abruptly called right before tipoff because Utah
center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19.

Paul then echoed the sentiment that others across the Orlando campus have
expressed: He is glad the NBA's restart is being held inside the Walt Disney
World "bubble."

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"I know, right now, this seems to be the safest way possible (to play)," Paul
said.

Baseball's immediate stumbling block is a stark contrast to American sports
playing inside a controlled environment. The 22 NBA teams invited to its
restart have been at Disney World for almost three weeks, with zero positive
tests reported among the 346 players tested daily between July 13 and July 20.

NBA players and coaches credit the league's stringent protocols for keeping
everybody safe and healthy.

In addition to daily testing, team personnel are required each morning to
measure and record their temperature, oxygen saturation levels and any
irregular health symptoms in a cellphone app connected to the league.

Some are wearing an Oura ring, which can detect early signs of coronavirus.
Scanning a Disney wristband is required to enter facilities around the campus,
and an electronic device attached to credentials starts beeping when people
get within six feet of each other. If a player leaves the bubble for an
excused absence such as a family emergency, they must immediately quarantine
when they return.

There is even an anonymous tip line available if somebody on campus is spotted
breaking a rule.

"When you hear about (baseball) coaches or players coming down with this in
their environment, it makes you think how grateful we have been here in the
NBA," Suns coach Monty Williams said. "You think about those guys and their
families, those guys and whatever long-term effects may come because of this
virus.

"But I'll reiterate it as much as I have to: The (NBA) has done so much to
keep us safe. And, to be honest with you, the guys - the players, staff,
everybody here - has done an unreal job of just trying to follow protocol. ...
Everybody here is trying to make this thing work. And I think the players, for
sure, should be commended for that."

In recent days, players and coaches have been asked to wear masks while
speaking during virtual media availabilities, now that more people are
gathering at game and practice sites. Bench seats during games will be spaced
out across multiple rows, and staff members sitting behind the first row are
required to wear masks.

"What the NBA has done in the environment that we are all in is spectacularly
brilliant," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. "I think it's elite. ... You
can't just, to me, create a better environment - one of safety, one of
professionalism - than what we have experienced."

But what about the 2020-21 NBA season, which is expected to be played outside
a bubble? Training camps are scheduled to open Nov. 10, with the regular
season beginning Dec. 1. There is no guarantee a coronavirus vaccine or
improved treatment will be widely available, or that the U.S. will have truly
flattened its curve by then.

Paul said discussions within the NBPA have not yet gotten that far.

And though baseball is already demonstrating how difficult it can be to play
professional sports out in the real world, the NBA bubble remains intact.

"Right now, it's working," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said. "You just keep
holding your breath, and we keep trying to do the right thing. We can't get
complacent, because it does seem really safe."

--By Gina Mizell (@ginamizell), Field Level Media

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