NBA: Playing in Orlando bubble is ‘safest place you can be,’ says deputy commissioner Mark Tatum

Just a day before the NBA restarts in a bubble in Orlando, the league announced that all 344 players have tested negative for COVID-19.

FP Sports July 30, 2020 09:14:59 IST
NBA: Playing in Orlando bubble is ‘safest place you can be,’ says deputy commissioner Mark Tatum

Just a day before the NBA is to resume its season inside a bio-secure bubble in Orlando, all 344 players who had been tested for COVID-19 returned negative tests, NBA’s Deputy League Commissioner and COO Mark Tatum announced on Thursday.

“Playing in this campus under these protocols is the safest place you can be,” Tatum told journalists from around the world on Wednesday.

Orlando, where the NBA teams are based, is in Florida, where cases of coronavirus have surged. Just two weeks ago, the state broke the American record for most cases in a day with over 15,000 people testing positive. On Wednesday, it reported over 200 deaths, in the process setting a record for the second consecutive day by a state since May.

Tatum said that the negative tests of NBA players inside the bubble were proof that their extensive health and safety protocols were working.

“I think when you’re trying to do business in a pandemic, it's all about the safety and health, first and foremost. Has to be about safety and health.

“The hardest part (about pulling off this restart plan) was the medical and the health and safety protocols. We were not going to go forward if we didn't come up with a plan that we felt very, very comfortable with that would keep everybody safe and everybody healthy,” he said.

“Coming up with a plan took months and months and months of conversations, of trying to build something that’s never been built before, and doing it in a way where we had confidence that we could keep people safe. If we didn't have confidence that we could do that, we wouldn't move forward. So that was the hardest part of this, and that required such detail, such understanding of how the virus works, how you could contain its spread, and that’s what led to the extensive set of protocols that we created.”

NBA Playing in Orlando bubble is safest place you can be says deputy commissioner Mark Tatum

A sign marking the entrance to ESPN's Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World. AP Photo

The league was suspended on 11 March after Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.

Tatum said the reason the NBA was so quick in shutting down the league as soon as one player had tested positive was because they had been tracking the virus since news started emerging of its spread in China.

“One of the reasons I think we were so ready at the time and pretty decisive on 11 March is because we had spent two months before that trying to understand the virus,” Tatum said.

“We have a very significant presence and business in China, including several offices in China. When the virus hit China first, our offices were affected by that too. So we actually started then to understand the virus, its impact, and so by the time 11 March came we were somewhat prepared ― as prepared as we could be.

“So at that point we knew that there was still a lot that we needed to learn about the virus. We knew as much as we could, but we knew there was still a lot to learn about the virus.”

Earlier on Wednesday, NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts had said that if circumstances remained the same, the next season of the NBA would also have to be played inside a bio-secure bubble.

Tatum, however, chose to be noncommittal about plans for next season.

“We haven’t started really engaging around next season yet. It really has taken all of our energy and focus to make sure that this restart could be successful,” he said before admitting that they were in the early stages of thinking about how next season could be organised.

“Again, health and safety will be a priority. (By then) We’ll get more information about the virus. Maybe there will be different ways of dealing with it. But when we’re looking at any restart for next season, we’ll be taking the learnings from this restart, and we’re going to apply that to next season.”

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