NBA Checks All Boxes In Orlando, But Future Uncertainties Loom
The NBA inside its Orlando bubble "protected its players while salvaging their season, satisfying TV contracts and helping mitigate some of the losses from the pandemic, the economic toll of which is still ongoing," according to Dan Woike of the L.A. TIMES. As people "left their rooms and turned in their tracking devices that beeped whenever you were within six feet of someone, there was a tremendous sense of accomplishment." The people who went through the bubble "will be connected, a shared experience unlike any other in NBA history" (L.A. TIMES, 10/13). In Boston, Mark Murphy writes in a sense, the Orlando bubble "burst for everyone Sunday," as "all of the tensions and weirdness were released" with the Lakers taking home the championship. The NBA "astounded everyone -- maybe the government should take notes, and maybe some are -- by making it through the whole restrictive process of playing eight seeding games and a regular playoff slate without a single positive COVID-19 test." Like the NHL, the NBA "didn’t just flourish -- the added concentration from the environment produced a better brand of basketball." Murphy writes to "remember the name" of NBA Senior VP/Player Matters David Weiss, a '16 SBJ "Forty Under 40" honoree. Celtics Assistant GM Mike Zarren said of the man charged with overseeing the bubble operation, "No. 3 lawyer in the league and in charge of all player health matters. Incredible job by Dave, and everyone knows it" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/13). NBA Commissioner Adam Silver yesterday informed league employees in “Thank You” letter that they are "all receiving a $1,000 bonus and four Fridays off beginning Oct. 30 as well as Thanksgiving week" (TWITTER.com, 10/12).
BUYING IN: In Toronto, Doug Smith writes the bubble "worked because there was near unanimous buy-in from players, coaches, staff members and franchises," and because there were "well thought out protocols put in place, followed religiously, and levels of control exerted that was absolutely necessary." That "can’t be understated." That is why it "should be held up as an example for others to follow" (TORONTO STAR, 10/13). In L.A., Mark Whicker writes somehow the league’s "fantastically rich and notoriously contentious players were convinced to hunker down outside Orlando to actually get the season done." They also "produced some of the best finishes of any playoff season" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/13). ESPN’s Malika Andrews said the “most challenging part" of being inside the NBA bubble was the “days piled up on top of one another and every single day all of us were trying to tell these challenging stories in many ways to the best of our abilities.” Andrews: “We had this unique experience that we got to relate to the players in a way that we don’t usually get to and trying to relay that. But also, keeping in mind the magnitude of what we’re attempting to do can be weighty at times" (“The Jump,” ESPN, 10/12).
THORNY HORIZON: In N.Y., Marc Stein writes "thorny discussions loom" between the league and NBPA to "address an array of unknowns about next season." What is "certain is that the players have been promised eight weeks’ notice before they have to start anew." The NBA's $180M bubble "allowed it to crown a champion for the 74th consecutive year." Yet, there is "much to resolve." The league and the union "must decide when to start free agency and how long they can hold out for a return to home markets before conceding that short-term regional bubbles may be necessary." Perhaps "most crucially, they must establish a new salary cap and luxury tax amid the pinch" of a $1.5B "shortfall in projected revenue" from '19-20 (N.Y. TIMES, 10/13).
LONG & WINDING: In Detroit, Rod Beard writes the "most important takeaway is that the bubble concept was successful and still has provided the best prototype for playing sports safely during the pandemic." But the season "almost spanned an entire year and with the four-month hiatus in the middle, it’s thrown the calendar off for next season, with the draft and free agency pending next month, potentially, and the start of the new season looming in January." Beard: "Potentially." Meanwhile, no crowds presented "no problem" for the league, as "one of the successes of the bubble was having no fans in attendance." Of course, the video boards had virtual fans, but that "didn’t seem to sway the games one way or the other." Just having a generic court with benches was a "simple way to broadcast the games, and although players were able to bring family members into the bubble after they quarantined, it all worked out" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/13).
HARD WORK AHEAD: The STAR's Smith writes now that the NBA's "marathon season in finally over," the future is "as cloudy as the past was tumultuous." There is "hard work ahead." The "best guess today is that the draft will go ahead as scheduled on Nov. 18, but nothing is certain beyond that." One of the "most enduring things to come out of the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World, an element that should hopefully carry forward long past this off-season, is the fight against social injustice that was such an integral part of the past three-plus months." The "on-court competition was intense," but the "common fight for awareness and action among players, coaches and executives was significant." That "won’t end, and shouldn’t, just because the season is over" (TORONTO STAR, 10/13).