No fans, fewer teams and Disney World — that’s basketball in the coronavirus bubble

Victoria has recorded a further 627 coronavirus cases and 8 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Premier Daniel Andrews says the victims are two men in their 50s, two men in their 70s, three men in 80s and one woman in her 70s.

Mr Andrews says 130 people in isolation, or one in four, were not home when doorknocked.

It seems like years ago that we found out the NBA had to shut down because of coronavirus.

On March 11, players from the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz were all ready to play and many were deep into their warm-ups when league officials came sprinting onto the court to tell everyone to go home.

That day’s games around the league finished up and in the blink of an eye, one case for Jazz centre Rudy Gobert had expedited a league-wide shutdown that, let’s be honest, was basically inevitable anyway.

The NBA is coming back this morning with two games: Utah vs New Orleans and an LA derby between the Clippers and Lakers.

Teams resumed training earlier this month, with players and staff gradually making their way to the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida (more on this later).

After a couple of practice games, which started last week, the real stuff is kicking off today.

The Jazz-Pelicans game started at 8:50am (AEST) before the the main event of reopening night, LeBron James’s Lakers vs the Clippers, featuring reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, at 11:00am.

In August last year, Disney unveiled the NBA Experience, which is basically a massive basketball-themed section of the Orlando resort.

So, when coronavirus hit and the NBA was looking for a “safe” way to resume the season, eyes turned to the site of their new theme park friends in one of the US states with the worst coronavirus numbers and the scene of many of those anti-masker videos you may have seen on social media, Florida.

For the past few weeks, players and staff from the NBA teams have been living in three hotels in the Walt Disney World Resort — the Grand Floridian in the “Magic Kingdom” section of the park, Coronado Springs and the Yacht Club — with access to fishing, golf and other activities.

Selected media members have also entered the bubble for the rest of the season, after they cleared quarantine and tested negative, of course.

Fortunately for the NBA, one of its primary broadcast partners, ESPN, is owned by Disney and, in a piece of synergy and vertical integration that would make Walt himself proud, all the games will be played in the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.

There will be no fans in attendance, with skeleton coaching and broadcasting crews in the arenas, making games look and sound a bit like training runs.

For the uninitiated, the NBA is made up of 30 teams, with 16 of them (eight from the eastern conference and eight from the western conference) making the playoffs.

When coronavirus forced the league to stop in March, the regular season was about three quarters done, meaning there were some teams that were already out of the running for the post-season.

So, with contact sport still a risky prospect even with endless biosecurity measures in place, the NBA wanted to limit the numbers of teams (and, by extension, people) forced to play.

They did this by telling the bottom eight teams in the league — Cleveland, Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Chicago, Charlotte, Golden State and Minnesota — to take an extended break.

That left 22 teams that were asked to head to Disney World to play eight regular-season games each to decide the playoff standings.

Then, if some of those teams outside the top eight in each conference are within four games of the playoff spots, there will be a short play-in tournament to get into the playoffs. Confused yet?

The higher-ranked teams will only have to win one game to secure their spot, while the lower-ranked teams will have to win two. Got it?

The NBA Finals are set to start on September 30, with the last possible date for a potential game seven listed as October 13.

With the 2020/21 season now slated to start in early December, the NBA can’t afford many, if any, setbacks.

Some players were thrilled to get back into the grind and have a chance to go for glory, but others didn’t want to resume for various reasons.

Lakers guard Avery Bradley is sitting out the rest of the season over coronavirus concerns, saying: “At a time like this, I can’t imagine making any decision that might put my family’s health and well-being at even the slightest risk.”

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving won’t play due to a shoulder injury, but also led a coalition of players who called out the league for restarting in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the climate of renewed emphasis on the Black Lives Matter movement.

On that front, players have the option of displaying a message of solidarity with the movement on the back of their jerseys.

We’ve also seen a number of players, including Australian Phoenix Suns centre Aron Baynes, test positive for coronavirus, although it appears that everyone in the bubble is now in the clear on that front.

To keep it that way, the league set up what has become known as the Snitch Hotline, to dob in anyone seen breaking the rules.

Sacramento’s Richaun Holmes may have fallen victim to that when he was forced into quarantine for leaving his section of the resort to pick up food from a delivery driver.

But the best story goes to Clippers guard Lou Williams, who was granted leave from the bubble to attend his grandfather’s funeral, but was caught out at a strip club when internet sleuths spied the veteran in rapper Jack Harlow’s Instagram stories.

It’s OK, though. He assured everyone he was just there for the food. And, I mean, can you blame him?

This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.

AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)


NBA, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers

World news – AU – No fans, fewer teams and Disney World — that’s basketball in the coronavirus bubble

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *