The first day of NBA training camp should be accompanied by optimism, a time for players and coaches all taking the first steps towards what they hope is a championship.
It got tempered this year.
The first camps of the pre-season coronavirus era have opened today, with teams limited to individual sessions with one coach and one player in one basket for the first few days, all of this is starting to happen as the pandemic continues and more and more Americans test positive – including at least three NBA players in recent days.
“I’m very concerned if we can make this happen,” said Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers.
He probably isn’t alone.
Golden State general manager Bob Myers said two Warriors have tested positive, meaning the club will not start individual training until Wednesday and will not have full training until Monday. Washington coach Scott Brooks said that the Wizards have one player who tested positive. And Orlando coach Steve Clifford said Magic Center Mo Bamba – who tested positive a few months ago – is still “a long way” to play again.
“I don’t think this is unexpected,” said Myers. “A little bit of proof that the protocols and tests work. … That’s all according to NBA protocols, which I learn a lot about. “
Rivers, who noted how the virus becomes a major problem for college football and the NFL in terms of playing games, said the effect of an NBA team losing a key player or two for a short period of time would essentially be a season. can devastate.
“In football they play once a week and they have 1,000 players, so if you miss three or four players, you can still get away with it,” Rivers said. “If we miss three or four players, we are in trouble, especially with the number of games. We play three and four games a week. So if one of our boys or two of our key figures gets the virus and they miss 10 days, 14 days, that could be eight games in a 72-game season. That can knock you out in the play-offs. “
The Wizards did not say which player tested positive, although Brooks said the player should not be on the Washington team just yet and that “everyone else is ready to go.” The Warriors also did not disclose who had undergone positive testing, citing competition rules and privacy policies. Bamba was diagnosed with COVID-19 on June 11, played sparingly in Orlando’s first two games at Walt Disney World during the NBA reboot there this summer, and then sat out for additional testing for the rest of the season.
“At this point, we hope he can get healthy enough to get back on the ground,” Clifford said. He will be able to do some things early in the camp, but he will be limited. He’s had a pretty tough time here in terms of how much he’s been able to do. We need to be careful and make sure we go with him intelligently. “
Players and coaches are tested daily and that is probably the plan for the entire season. Protocols sent to teams late last week by the league suggested that in many cases it would take at least 12 days for a player to be able to play again after testing positive for the coronavirus.
The league had no positive tests as players hit the reboot bubble over the summer. But now back in the real world, with travel and hotels and airplanes back in the mix, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said the challenge will fall for individuals to do the right things.
“This is where people come in and out, it will be much more difficult and the discipline will have to be even greater,” said Popovich. “But I think the understanding is that to make it work, we have an even greater responsibility than in Orlando. The competition made it easy for us in Orlando in my opinion, and as we all know it did a great job. But here the task rests much more with individuals and teams. “
The NBA is partnering with BioReference – a company that also ran testing in the bubble, at a cost of about $ 140 per test competition – for standardized competition-wide testing, and that company is likely to have staff traveling with teams this season. to perform testing. the route. The league has said that its testing program will not affect BioReference’s nationwide testing capabilities or that it will not use public health resources at a time when more and more Americans are seeking testing.
“I’m pretty comfortable with it,” said Boston coach Brad Stevens. As we saw with the bubble, the NBA crosses every ‘t’ and dots every ‘i’. They communicated great with us … and I look forward to hopefully getting together and starting practicing as a group soon. “
Some teams may start that group training – and 5-on-5 sessions – Friday. Most other NBA clubs can start on Sunday. Injuries will be a concern, as will conditioning, but the daily test numbers seem to overshadow everything.
“As a coach, you want to join your team’s concern for being more basketball,” Rivers said. “And I think any coach’s concerns are probably non-basketball at the moment.”