The NBA acknowledges that its restart plan for Orlando, Fla., this month is not foolproof. But the league took plenty of precautions as it prepared its bubble environment at Disney World, and it will hope for the best.
But at least it can be encouraged by a similar trial run overseas.
The German basketball Bundesliga recently finished its three-week experiment in a bubble environment in Munich. Ten teams took part, about 250 people involved in the event stayed in the same hotel, and the league completed its entire 36-game schedule without registering a positive COVID-19 test.
Germany was not hit by the virus with nearly the same ferocity that Florida is currently being throttled; the state registered more than 10,000 new cases Thursday, a record. Also, the NBA’s traveling party will be considerably larger, and the event’s duration considerably longer.
Nevertheless, the success overseas offers a sign of hope, and Celtics center Daniel Theis, who played in the Bundesliga before joining the Celtics three years ago, was watching it closely.
“It worked out pretty well,” Theis said. “They got tested the same way. No accidents, no issues, no positive tests while they were playing. It was only three or four weeks, but it worked out, too. I have confidence the system in Orlando will be good for everybody.”
Theis said that a close friend, former Gonzaga forward Elias Harris, took part in Germany’s bubble games.
“In the beginning, he wasn’t sure about it,” Theis said. “But during the tournament, he was pretty positive. The way everything was organized with the testing and safety, he was really positive. They made it so that they can just focus on basketball. That’s what we want to do.”
Of course, the success of the NBA’s initiative will hinge in large part on the cooperation of the players and team staffers. Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard, for one, said he was skeptical that all the players would follow the strict guidelines.
But Theis is confident that the Celtics will follow them. He pointed out that none of the 25 NBA players who have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week are Celtics, and it is clear to him the team is taking the situation quite seriously.
“I know that our team, our players are going to follow the rules,” he said. “I just hope that everybody in this bubble, from players to staff to everybody, just follows the rules and thinks about that it’s not just about himself.
“It’s about that he can get more people sick and he can potentially get the NBA season canceled again if somebody’s going to bring [the virus] in there and, I don’t know, 20, 30, 40, 50 people test positive.”
Celtics center Enes Kanter also said he is comfortable with the Orlando setup and believes the NBA has done plenty to create a safe, secure environment.
“But I think the one thing we need to do is it always starts with ourselves,” Kanter said. “Players need to take care of themselves first by following the rules and doing what we’re supposed to do, wearing a mask, even when we are in the hotel, and just social distancing and stuff.”
Under the NBA’s restart plan, 22 teams are invited to Disney World, where they will play eight regular-season games before starting the playoffs. The Celtics are scheduled to play their first game against the Bucks July 31.