The NBA has a coronavirus (COVID-19) problem. During the second half of last year, the league was able to get by with playing in the ‘bubble’ in Orlando, Florida. This year, without that bubble, games have already been postponed and players are already beginning to voice their opinion on the league’s handling of the situation. George Hill of the Oklahoma City Thunder has already fired back at the NBA over its new protocols.
The NBA’s bubble was a success
When the NBA returned after a four-month hiatus after the COVID-19 outbreak during the 2019-20 season, people questioned Commissioner Adam Silver’s plan. Silver had the playoff-bound teams and a few others on the outside get together in Orlando, Florida, to restart the season. No players were allowed to leave that ‘bubble’ in order to help contain the spread of the virus.
Outside of player protests regarding social justice, no games were postponed. The league handled the virus as well as it could and was able to complete the season. The season ended in mid-October with the Los Angeles Lakers being crowned champions.
With no fans able to attend those games, the league took a financial hit. In order to recoup some of that money, the league wanted to begin the 2020-21 season before Christmas to get that television money from the holiday games. That meant a quick turnaround while the virus was still spreading at a pretty good pace.
The start to the 2020-21 season has been challenging due to COVID-19
It started right away. The Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets game on Dec. 23 was postponed. The NBA said three Rockets players returned COVID-19 tests that were either positive or inconclusive. They also had four others in quarantine after contact tracing.
The league has also postponed several other games recently. Other teams, including the Philadelphia 76ers, had to play with seven available players. According to Sports Illustrated, the league made the Sixers activate an injured Mike Scott to give them the required eight players to play. Head coach Doc Rivers was adamant Scott wasn’t going to play and wasn’t happy the game was played.
“I can tell you now there’s no way I’m going to play him,” said Rivers of Scott. “I just don’t think he should play. So, you could make a case that we have seven bodies to throw (out there).” The following day, the NBA postponed the Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat game when the two teams were in the same predicament the Sixers were.
George Hill takes stand against the NBA’s new protocols
The virus continues to spread and the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to new protocols regarding the handling of the virus. According to The Oklahoman, players and staff members are to quarantine at home or in their hotels when not practicing or playing games. Exceptions include essential activities such as grocery shopping.
The new protocols didn’t sit well with veteran Oklahoma City Thunder guard George Hill. “I’m a grown man, so I’m gonna do what I wanna do,” Hill said after the Thunder’s 112-102 loss to the Spurs on Tuesday. “If I wanna go see my family, I’m gonna go see my family. They can’t tell me I have to stay in the room 24/7. If it’s that serious then maybe we shouldn’t be playing. It’s life. No one’s gonna be able to just cancel their whole life for this game.”
Another NBA rule is that players must “avoid extended socializing” before and after games. That also irked Hill. “I just don’t understand some of the rules as far as we can sweat 48 minutes with the guy next to us and the team next to us, but we can’t talk to him after the game,” Hill said. “It makes no sense.”