Nine more NBA players had contracted COVID-19 from tests conducted between June 24-29, bringing the total to 25 who have been positive since mandated testing began June 23, as well 10 positive-testing staff members from the teams that will start arriving at the Disney complex near Orlando, Fla., Tuesday for the resumption of the season, the league and the players’ union revealed Thursday.
And statewide, health departments around Florida got more than 10,000 new positive cases back on Wednesday, a single-day record for a state that remains very much under siege from the virus and likely a troubling sign for the NBA — which remains hopeful that highly restrictive rules at Disney will keep players and staff safe.
Percentagewise, the NBA numbers are much lower than the rate of positive tests in many hotspot areas, including the average in Florida. With 351 players tested through June 29, the league had 25 positives for a 7.1 percent rate. Among 884 team staff tested between June 23 and June 29, the rate was minuscule — the 10 positives equate to a mere 1.1 percent positive rate.
Under league policy, “any player, coach or team staff member who tested positive will remain in self-isolation until they satisfy public health protocols for discontinuing isolation and have been cleared by a physician.”
Still, it is an issue that, as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said many times, the league cannot outrun. Thursday marked the 113th day since the league suspended its season after Utah’s All-Star duo of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell tested positive; they may have largely recovered physically, but there is still clearly a strain in the relationship, something Mitchell discussed in a teleconference Thursday.
“I wasn’t happy in the beginning,” Mitchell said. “I’ve said that publicly. It’s no secret. ... And on top of that, it really took away from like what guys were working on. We’ve talked about what we’ve been working on for the past two months, and I feel like that’s really been hijacked because of this whole thing.”
At Disney, preparations continued. Practice courts have been put into place in what typically are hotel ballrooms. The arenas that will play host to games are being set up for NBA needs, and some staff were getting set to arrive to begin their quarantines.
Ski worlds to stay on schedule
A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected by the International Ski Federation.
FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.
The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.
Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about $34 million if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.
“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,‘' Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.
Blue Jays to train in Toronto
All 30 Major League Baseball teams will train at their regular-season ballparks for the pandemic-shortened season after the Toronto Blue Jays received a Canadian federal government exemption to work out at Rogers Centre. Toronto will move camp from its spring training complex in Dunedin, Fla., where players reported for intake testing. Before this week, several players and staff in Dunedin had tested positive for the virus … New York Mets hitting coach Chili Davis will continue working remotely when the team’s summer camp opens Friday. The New York Post reported that the 60-year-old Davis won’t be on site at Citi Field for the beginning of practices because of concerns about the coronavirus. The Post, citing anonymous sources in its report, said Davis does not have the virus. New Mets manager Luis Rojas said all other coaches and players have reported for intake screening. Assistant hitting coach Tom Slater will substitute on site for Davis, who lives in Arizona during the offseason.
Formula One returns after 4 months
Four months after the opening race was called off at the last minute, the Formula One season finally gets underway this weekend on another continent and in a different-looking world.
There will be no fans on hand at the remote Spielberg track in Austria, with the coronavirus still creating uncertainty over how many races can actually be held — and where.
That may not be the only unusual sight, as drivers are discussing whether to take the knee together on the grid before Sunday’s race in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Defending F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has been an outspoken supporter of the movement and will be competing in an all-black Mercedes car — instead of the usual silver — as a statement against racism.
Boise State cuts programs
Boise State cut its baseball and women’s swimming and diving programs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program cuts, along with additional department and program operating reductions, will reduce the overall athletic budget by nearly $3 million.
The cut to baseball comes after the program was recently reinstated. The school announced in 2017 that baseball was being added after it had been discontinued following the 1980 season. The 2020 season was Boise State’s return, but the Broncos played only 14 games before the season was canceled.
The school said all scholarships for athletes in the affected programs, including incoming 2020 signings, will be honored.
Fans allowed at French Open
The French Open tennis tournament will be held with fans when it starts in September. The French Tennis Federation wrote on Twitter that tickets will go on sale to the general public on July 16. The FFT did not give more information as to how many fans will be allowed at Roland Garros for the Sept. 27-Oct. Oct. 11 tournament. The clay-court tournament had been scheduled to start on May 24. It then got postponed to Sept. 20 because of the coronavirus pandemic and then pushed back another week. The FFT has prepared a health and safety protocol to ensure the safety of fans … The All England Club will donate 200 portions of strawberries to workers on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic every day of what would have been the two-week tournament. Wimbledon was canceled this year for the first time since World War II because of the pandemic. It was scheduled to start on Monday. The club said more than 26,000 strawberries that would have been used for Wimbledon are being prepared by staff for delivery. Wimbledon says it is a “small gesture of appreciation for the dedicated service of the NHS [National Health Service] during what would have been The Championships Fortnight.”… Novak Djokovic said he and his wife, Jelena, have now tested negative for the coronavirus. The top-ranked player tested positive for the virus after playing in an exhibition series he organized in Serbia and Croatia with zero social distancing amid the pandemic. Djokovic was the fourth player to come down with the virus after participating in matches held in Belgrade and Zadar, Croatia. The others were three-time Grand Slam semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki.