COVID-19 Sports Update: NBA Proposals Still Up in the Air, Little League Protocols, SEC Football

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COVID-19 Sports Update: NBA Proposals Still Up in the Air, Little League Protocols, SEC Football

Chicago Bulls

In fairness, I’ll say that the county in the following story indicates that it does have capacity for this level of contact tracing. Fine. But real story is the reminder that unless you have TONS of capacity to conduct this level of contact tracing – literally tracking down every contact and contact of contact – you can’t yet have people interacting closely like this in your area.

The story is one that will be repeated all over the country in the coming weeks and months:

To be sure, everyone was masked and all that stuff, which is good. But you have to at least be able to follow up with, warn, and encourage steps for the various people who come into contact with people who have tested positive, because we don’t know how long they were spreading the sickness. This isn’t like the sports-related ideas where you might be testing people every day. In the real world, so many carriers are going to have no idea they’re spreading the virus. So if you want the world to continue these various “open” functions, that means robust contact tracing is key, as is mass testing, as is doing everything you can to still practice appropriate distancing, hygiene, and masking.

NBA Plans, Questions, Schedule

As you would expect, if and when the league starts ramping up, the volume of people involved is going to be greatly reduced, both at a league level and on individual teams:

As for the ramp up to play, the situations are not equal in every jurisdiction as far as training goes, so some teams may look to know sooner rather than later when the bubble is finalized:

Note that the Bulls are still not permitted to work out at the Advocate Center, though there’s a general expectation that Illinois/Cook County will permit pro sports teams to work out at their facilities if and when there’s an actual resumption plan and timeline in place.

As for what the sport will look like upon resumption, a lot is still up in the air, per Woj:

In formal and informal conversations with owners, executives and players, the league is still uncertain about the regular season and playoff structure it will use to complete the season.

On Thursday’s call, the league was vague in detailing several resumption scenarios still under consideration, including a modified 30-team regular-season schedule directly to the playoffs, pool-play rounds of a play-in tournament and play-in models with fewer than 30, but more than 16 teams, sources said. Several members of the league’s board of governors believe that the NBA’s preference isn’t to bring every team to resume the season, but that remains undecided. First, the fewer teams, the fewer people at risk to spread or contract COVID-19. Also, with little chance to play more than five to seven regular season games, a month of preparation seems like an excessive investment for teams at the bottom of the standings.

And the idea of rewarding the league’s very worst teams in a play-in tournament has been met with scant enthusiasm. Among the teams at the bottom of the standings, most privately want nothing more than to keep their draft lottery odds strong — not dilute those percentages trying to win a handful of meaningless games. They’re even less enthusiastic about including key, veteran players and risking injuries in those games.

Ultimately, revenue (or loss) opportunities will dictate a lot of what happens going forward. The Bulls currently have the 7th worst record in the NBA, and stand 11th in the East. If, like the NHL is proposing, only the bottom four clubs in each conference are excluded from a jump to the postseason, the Bulls would “make the playoffs.” 

If there are only five or six regular season games upon resumption, it’ll mostly mark a final look at Jim Boylen for the new front office, as the Bulls are currently 8.0 games behind the currently 8th seeded Magic. In the reverse standings, the Bulls are 4.0 games “behind” the Cavs for the 2nd spot, and 4.0 games “ahead” of the Suns for the 10th spot. So that would be the plausible outer bounds of their range for the lottery (though the more realistic range, in just five or six games, would be between the 5th spot and the 9th spot).

Little League

In consultation with medical professionals, Little League is putting together its plans to make baseball and softball available this summer for kids:

With all appropriate caveats on how much is still unknown about the novel coronavirus, you do see more research lately that it may not spread as easily outdoors, it may not spread as easily in warm/high-humidity weather, and it may not spread as easily on surfaces. It is possible, then, that appropriate protocols could make youth sports like Little League low enough risk that the mental and physical value in having these activities for kids is worth playing.

SEC Football

There was really no realistic chance that the SEC was not going to try to make college football happen this year, and, as other locations are doing, they’ve now approved athletes returning to campus June 8 to begin working out. There are going to be layers of screening, quarantining, testing, etc., as well as obvious hygiene protocols. 

As with professional sports, I don’t know that you can realistically legislate out the spread of a virus, so ultimately many of the biggest concerns and questions won’t arise until there are positive tests, and then the ability to control outbreaks. Honestly, when it comes to football, I still don’t know how that is going to go, or how I feel about the level of risk. I understand that there are huge risks on the other side – massive losses to universities, which can impact services, enrollment, and non-revenue sports – but unlike in some other areas, I still don’t feel like I have a great grip around what makes for a sensible approach here. That’s not a comment one way or the other. I just don’t know.

That said, I do know that there’s going to be a significant interrelationship among all sports – pro and college – about how things go. Where a process is viewed as a success in one sports or level, it’s going to be observed closely in another. Ditto the failings. And ditto on both counts when it comes, ultimately, to having fans in attendance. 

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.