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What happens if a player in NBA ‘bubble’ tests positive for coronavirus?

Only a short break, maybe a day or two, with some teams not in contact with the player able to continue games, according to NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Credit: AP
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver during a news conference Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Chicago. (AP)

When Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus back in March, the action by Adam Silver was swift and immediate — the NBA was shut down. Completely.

Last week, the first small steps were made toward a return to games, with a couple of teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, opening practice facilities for limited workouts.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also had a conference call with players to update them on a return to play, which might start in June or July, without fans, in a couple of "bubble" locations such as Las Vegas or the Disney property in Orlando.

What happens if a player in one of the NBA’s bubbles tests positive for coronavirus?

Only a short break, maybe a day or two, with some teams not in contact with the player able to continue games, Silver said, according to multiple sources who were on or were familiar with Friday's conference call. Silver told players that with daily testing — his goal to have the bubbles up and running — a positive test would make it possible to quickly isolate the player and those he was in direct contact with that day, limiting the spread of the virus in the bubble.

Shams Charania of The Athletic said Silver told the players there likely would be a two-day break, but the details of that need to be negotiated with the players' union, and he reported this quote from Silver.

"We're going to have to find a way to work through this," Silver told players. "This could turn out to be the single greatest challenge of all of our lives. ... Until there is a vaccine or some magical cocktail that prevents people from dying from this virus, we are going to be dealing with it, collectively."

Testing remains at the heart of any plans to restart the league. As of today there simply are not enough tests for the NBA to do it (nationally we are doing about 250,000 tests a day on average, but that's somewhere between half and about 10% of what various experts suggest needs to be done to track and contain the coronavirus).

Silver suggested to players the league would need more than 10,000 total tests to create the bubbles and test players and staff. Just as critically, the league needs to get those without taking tests away from cities/states where they are needed. Silver was confident that would happen.

The NBA has mapped out scenarios and is moving toward reopening the league. That includes what would happen if — or, more likely, when — a player, a players’ family member, or team staff member inside the bubble tests positive for the virus.

Like everything else with restarting the NBA, it will not be easy. But Silver said it is possible.

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