NBA News: 2020-21 Season Might Take Place In Bubble Environment, NBPA Executive Director Says

An official NBA basketball from Spalding sits on the court at Atlanta's Philips Arena.
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Ahead of the scheduled resumption of regular-season NBA action, National Basketball Players’ Association (NBPA) executive director Michele Roberts said in an interview that it’s possible the league’s 2020-21 season will be held in a “bubble” environment similar to the current one inside Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

“If tomorrow looks like today, I don’t know how we say we can do it differently,” Roberts said in an interview with ESPN on Tuesday, as quoted by the outlet’s Tim Bontemps.

“If tomorrow looks like today, and today we all acknowledge — and this is not Michele talking, this is the league, together with the PA and our respective experts saying, ‘This is the way to do it’ — then that’s going to have to be the way to do it.”

As further explained by Roberts, she does not agree with the expectation of the “Trump camp” that the novel coronavirus will “go away in two weeks,” though she is praying that the circumstances will be different in the lead-up to the 2020-21 campaign, which is expected to kick off on December 1. The NBPA executive director added that there are many unknown variables at the moment, before reiterating her earlier point about playing next season with a similar setup to the one presently in place in Orlando.

According to ESPN, the 22 teams inside the bubble finished the final day of scrimmages on Tuesday, two days before the scheduled resumption of regular-season play at 6:30 p.m. EDT on July 30. In the three weeks since the teams flew to Orlando, the NBA has not recorded any positive COVID-19 tests at the site, with the only two positive cases having been confirmed upon the players’ arrival on campus, thus preventing the coronavirus from entering the secure area. There were, however, several positive cases recorded last month when the NBA tested players in preparation for the restart.

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts testifies during a 2014 hearing in Washington, DC.
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Given the absence of new COVID-19 cases inside the bubble, Roberts told ESPN that the setup appears to be working. This, as noted, comes two months after she expressed concerns to the outlet’s Ramona Shelburne about how people might feel as if they are imprisoned at the site.

“I was worried that it was going to appear a little too much like an armed camp,” she related, recalling how she initially didn’t want the NBA to essentially “incarcerate” people for the rest of the then-suspended 2019-20 campaign.

Talking about the strong possibility that the pandemic would result in the NBA suffering a precipitous drop in revenue next season due to the absence of paying fans in arenas, Roberts hinted at some “very high-level discussions” between the league and the NBPA regarding the matter. She did, however, express confidence that these talks will not include a complete renegotiation of the current collective bargaining agreement, which both sides can opt-out of no earlier than December 15, 2022.