The NBA Bubble Has Burst


Jarvis Greer

The FedEx Forum in Memphis Tennessee who’s basketball team, the Grizzlies, were struck with a five game absence

Aidan May, Sports Editor

The Memphis Grizzlies have returned to practice Wednesday after a 5-game hiatus. The Tennessee team has had to close down due to contact tracing protocol issued by the NBA. This isn’t the first time an NBA team has had postponements. In fact, there have been 23 postponed games since the regular season started in December.

This recent stretch, however, is the longest postponement  by any one team. This is a lot different then the NBA bubble that happened last season in Florida. So, in a return to normalcy mode, they allowed league travel. It is potentially a sign that the NBA should upgrade their protocols.

The current NBA COVID rules are pretty self aligned with CDC guidelines. According to the NBA website, a player who tests positive asymptomatic or not has to wait 10 days to return to practice after being monitored for two days. If a player tests negative, they must be tested negative twice in a 24-hour period to return to league play. They also have limited travel to up to 45 people per team including 17 players, and they are not allowed to leave their homes or hotels between practice times.

Can this really be enough though? It is enough to just set rules without enforcing them. COVID has not gotten any better. In fact, new strains have recently come to the states, and we have seen recently that some players have all out broken COVID rules.

James Harden, while in Houston, went to a night club party and was only fined 50,000 dollars. Kyrie Irving was also fined 50,000 dollars for missing three games due to unspecified reasons. Fining players who already make millions of dollars just from their contracts alone has not seemed enough to limit this rule breaking.

An easy alternative to this predicament is to do what has already been proven to work. The NBA bubble during the second half of the 2020 season has proved a success at limiting player injuries and sickness. While being confined at the sport complex at Disney World in Orlando, teams did not travel and testing and tracing was easy and efficient.

RunRepeat found that players missed 28% fewer games due to injury and sickness, which was lower that the last five seasons. Players who did get injured went three games missing without the usual four to five games you see now with new league rules. And, without the home court advantage it gives many underdog teams a chance in the spotlight.

Although the NBA has tried vigorously to enforce their COVID rules, it has been a little shaky sticking the landing. By returning to the bubble, the NBA can effectively trace their players and do it quickly within the confines of a sports complex. It has worked once and it could again. Basketball can be a entertaining sport not when the players and teams are missing games at a time. If Memphis is the example of how the NBA’s rules aren’t going far enough it should be time for a wake up call.