The NBA season is set to return on July 30 at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Amid a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases, though, there now seems to be growing concern that the NBA could be in trouble.
While many around the NBA believe the league’s return-to-play plan is now too big to fail, concern seems to be steadily rising. The league began testing players for COVID-19 on Tuesday, expecting a significant number of positive tests and it already has its first confirmed case this week.
Now, per The Athletic’s Sam Amick, multiple general managers are fearful of what will happen when 22 teams and hundreds of personnel are together in Orlando. In fact, many said they were terrified for all the people involved and also fear this will damage the NBA’s reputation.
“If the cases keep spiking in Florida, things are going to happen,” one general manager said, via The Athletic. “I’m really, really concerned for the league big-picture wise in many, many ways.”
Notably, of the 10 general managers polled by The Athletic, seven top executives remained cautiously optimistic on Monday for the NBA’s return. But even among those who expressed optimism, there still remains a great level of uncertainty.
“Uncomfortable — how can anyone not be,” a fourth GM said, via The Athletic. “A lot of uncertainty. I know all the proper measures are being taken but (there) is still a lot (of) unknown. You know and I know why we are playing — for the money. If not that, do you really think we would be playing? I get it, and I’m in…but with hesitation.”
Multiple NBA players have already pulled out of the league’s return and more announcements are coming. Among those to sit out, Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans, Portland Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza and Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley.
All three are largely sitting out either due to family reasons, in Bertans’ case because he is set to become a free agent. Players will be separated from their families for months and it appears increasingly likely that Orlando isn’t a safe place to host the NBA’s return.
The NBA seemingly picked Walt Disney World in Orlando when Florida was reopening and appeared like a safe destination. However, following the lifting of stay-at-home restrictions and with public spaces welcoming people back, the state is experiencing a massive spike in COVID-19 cases.
On Wednesday, Florida set a new record with more than 5,000 new cases of the coronavirus. It blew past the previous mark of 4,049 new cases, which was set on June 20. The state is also now well past 100,000 total cases of the coronavirus.
Orlando is experiencing its own spike in COVID-19. In Orange County, where Orlando is located, it had just 1,577 cases on May 17 and it is now over 4,500. Furthermore, via The Athletic, its daily positive rate has eclipsed 10%-plus for the last week.
Ultimately, the NBA will continue to push forward with its plan. If the situation in Orlando continues to get worse, things could change before the season even begins.