12/01 19:05 CST A cautious start to NBA season, as camps open amid positives
A cautious start to NBA season, as camps open amid positives
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
The first day of NBA training camp is supposed to be accompanied by brimming
optimism, a time for players and coaches all taking those first steps toward
what they hope is a championship.
It was tempered this year.
The first preseason camps of the coronavirus era opened Tuesday, with teams
limited for the first few days to individual sessions with one coach and one
player at one basket, all of this starting to happen as the pandemic continues
raging and more and more Americans are testing positive --- including at least
three NBA players in recent days.
"I'm very concerned if we can pull this off," Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers
He probably isn't alone.
Golden State general manager Bob Myers said two Warriors have tested positive,
meaning that club won't start individual workouts until Wednesday and won't
have a full-scale practice until Monday. Washington coach Scott Brooks said the
Wizards have one player who tested positive. And Orlando coach Steve Clifford
said Magic center Mo Bamba --- who tested positive several months ago --- is
still "a ways away" from being ready to play again.
"I don't think this is unexpected," Myers said. "Kind of proves that the
protocols and testing are working. ... That's all per NBA protocols, which I'm
learning a lot about."
Rivers, noting how the virus is becoming a major issue for college football and
the NFL in terms of getting games played, said the effect on an NBA team losing
a key player or two for even a short period could essentially wreck a season.
"In football they play once a week and they have 1,000 players, so when you
miss three or four players, you can still get away with it," Rivers said. "If
we miss three or four players, we're in trouble, especially with the amount of
games. We're playing three and four games a week. So, if one of our guys or two
of our key guys get the virus and they miss 10 days, 14 days, that can be eight
games in a 72-game season. That can knock you out in the playoffs."
The Wizards didn't say what player tested positive, though Brooks said the
player has yet to be around the team in Washington and that "everybody else is
ready to go." The Warriors also didn't reveal who had positive tests, citing
league rules and privacy policies. Bamba was diagnosed with COVID-19 on June
11, played sparingly in Orlando's first two games at Walt Disney World during
the NBA's restart there this summer, then sat out the rest of the season for
"Right now, we're hoping that he can get healthy enough to get back on the
floor," Clifford said. "He's going to be able to do some of the things early in
camp, but he's going to be limited. He's had kind of a tough stretch here in
terms of how much he's been able to do. We have to be prudent and make sure
we're moving along with him in an intelligent manner."
Players and coaches are being tested daily and that is likely to be the plan
for throughout the season. Protocols that the league sent to teams late last
week suggested that, in many cases, it would take at least 12 days for a player
to be able to return to play after testing positive for the coronavirus.
The league had no positive tests once players entered the restart bubble over
the summer. But now back in the real world, with travel and hotels and
airplanes back in the mix, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said the challenge
will fall on individuals to do the right things.
"Here, people are coming in and out, it'll be much more difficult and the
discipline will have to be even greater," Popovich said. "But I think the
understanding is, to make it work, we have an even greater responsibility than
we had in Orlando. The league made it easy for us in Orlando, in my opinion,
and as we all know did a great job. But here, a lot more of the onus is on
individuals and teams."
The NBA is working with BioReference --- a company that also handled testing in
the bubble, at the league's expense of about $140 per test --- for standardized
league-wide testing, and that company will likely have personnel traveling with
teams this season to handle testing on the road. The league has said that its
testing program does not impact BioReference's nationwide testing capabilities
or use public health resources in a time where more and more Americans are
"I'm pretty comfortable with it," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "As we saw
with the bubble, the NBA crosses every ?t' and dots every ?i.' They have been
great communicating with all of us ... and I'm looking forward to hopefully
getting together and starting practice soon as a group."
Some teams will be able to start those group practices --- and 5-on-5 sessions
--- Friday. Most other NBA clubs will be able to start Sunday. Injuries will be
a worry, as will conditioning, but the daily testing numbers seem like they'll
"As a coach, you want to go in with your team concerns being more basketball,"
Rivers said. "And I think every coaches' concerns right now are probably
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