NBA ‘very comfortable’ with restart venue despite coronavirus surge

The NBA confirmed its July 30 restart inside the league’s ‘bubble’ at Disney World in Orlando. (AFP)
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Updated 27 June 2020

NBA ‘very comfortable’ with restart venue despite coronavirus surge

  • ‘We’re not saying full steam ahead no matter what happens’
  • ‘We are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus. No options are risk-free right now’

NEW YORK: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday the league remains “very comfortable” with its decision to restart the season in Florida as the state battled a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases.
In a conference call with reporters held after the league confirmed details of its July 30 restart, Silver said the league would be ready to halt play if there was a significant outbreak among NBA players and personnel inside the league’s “bubble” at Disney World in Orlando.
But Silver added the league was confident that protocols put in place at the Disney World campus would be sufficient to shield NBA players and staff from the worst of the escalating COVID-19 crisis in surrounding areas.
Health officials in Florida on Friday announced 8,942 new cases of the disease, smashing the previous single-day record of 5,511 set earlier this week.
Cases in Orange County, where Orlando is located, have skyrocketed to more than 6,500 from 1,800 cases a month ago.
“My ultimate conclusion is that we can’t outrun the virus and this is what we’re going to be living with for the foreseeable future, which is why we designed the campus the way we did,” Silver said.
“It’s a closed network and while it’s not impermeable we are in essence protected from cases around us. For those reasons we’re still very comfortable being in Orlando.
“We’re never going to say there’s nothing that would cause us to change our plans, but one thing we’re learning about this virus is there’s so much that’s unpredictable.
“We’re not saying full steam ahead no matter what happens. We talk daily and we’re going to see how this continues to play out. But we feel very comfortable right now with where we are.”
Silver meanwhile said isolated coronavirus cases which emerged during the restarted season would see players placed in quarantine.
“If we had a single player test positive, frankly whether that player was an All-Star or a journeyman, that player would then go into quarantine and we would be tracking any player or personnel that player had been in contact with,” Silver said.
“We would then supplement the testing just to make sure that others haven’t been contaminated but we would continue. And that team would be down a man. We would treat that positive test as if it was an injury and we would not delay the continuation of the playoffs.”
However, Silver acknowledged a larger outbreak could lead to the season being halted.
“If we were to have a significant spread of coronavirus through our community, that might ultimately lead us to stop it,” he said.
“But we’re working closely with the players association, Disney and public health officials in Florida as to what that line should be and as yet it hasn’t been precisely defined.
“We want to get down on the ground and see how the testing and protocols are working and we’ll make decisions as we go.”
The coronavirus pandemic forced the NBA to shut down the campaign March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for the deadly virus.
Silver said the decision to resume the season on a “closed campus” had not been the NBA’s preferred option.
“We looked at several different models all based on the data around society,” Silver said.
“It was not our first choice to play on a closed campus. The data led us to conclude we did need to play on a closed campus under the protocols we’re talking about — mandatory masking, no fans, contact tracing, aggressive testing etc.
“We are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus. No options are risk-free right now.”
Earlier Friday, the NBA revealed that 16 players had tested positive for COVID-19 out of 302 tests conducted on Tuesday.
None of the players or teams involved were revealed by the NBA in a brief statement.
The tests were required as part of the agreement for players who have committed to participating in the season restart in Florida.
Each player who tested positive will remain in self-isolation until he meets public health protocol for leaving isolation and is cleared by a physician.


Liverpool edge past Ajax to show they can cope without Van Dijk

Updated 54 min 29 sec ago

Liverpool edge past Ajax to show they can cope without Van Dijk

AMSTERDAM: Liverpool proved they can cope without Virgil van Dijk as Nicolas Tagliafico’s own goal sealed a 1-0 win at Ajax in the opening game of their Champions League campaign on Wednesday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are likely to be without Van Dijk for the rest of the season after the influential Dutch center-back suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage against Everton last weekend.
Critics have claimed Liverpool will struggle without Van Dijk, but Brazilian midfielder Fabinho filled in impressively alongside Joe Gomez at the heart of the defense.
While Liverpool weren’t at their best and rode their luck at times, never more so than when Tagliafico diverted Sadio Mane’s scuffed effort into his own net in the first half, it was an encouraging Group D opener for Klopp.
There was enough spirit about the 2019 Champions League winners to suggest they will use the Van Dijk blow to fuel their Premier League title defense and European challenge.
Van Dijk will need knee surgery after being pole-axed by Everton keeper Jordan Pickford’s ugly foul and his injury came at a time when Liverpool looked vulnerable after losing 7-2 at Aston Villa before the international break.
Against that backdrop, keeping a clean-sheet for just the third time this season was a big lift for Liverpool, who won for the first time in three games despite also being without defender Joel Matip and midfielder Thiago Alcantara after the brutal Merseyside derby.
Liverpool were playing Ajax in Amsterdam for the first time since losing to the great Johan Cruyff’s side in the 1966 European Cup.
As the only fit center-back, Gomez was under the spotlight and the 23-year-old provided an early scare when he got in a muddle with Liverpool keeper Adrian over a backpass.
Ajax couldn’t take advantage on that occasion, but Liverpool found it hard to establish any momentum.
Their makeshift defense was easily carved open when Quincy Promes advanced down the left and found Dusan Tadic, who set up Ryan Gravenberch for a fierce strike that flashed just wide.
There was another major scare moments later as David Neres’ pass found the unmarked Promes six yards from goal, but he shot straight at Adrian to let Liverpool off the hook.
Making the most of that escape, Liverpool took the lead in bizarre fashion in the 35th minute.
Mane eluded Perr Schuurs as he broke into the Ajax area but when the Senegal forward went to shoot, he stubbed his foot into the turf, sending a miscued effort toward Tagliafico, who lost his balance and prodded the ball into his own net under no pressure.
Klopp has been fostering a siege mentality among his players since the Everton game and their backs to the wall spirit was on full display when Fabinho raced back to clear Tadic’s lob off the line with a superb overhead kick.
Van Dijk couldn’t have done it better himself, but while Fabinho was impressing, Ajax still carried a threat.
Taking aim from the edge of the area, Davy Klaassen smashed a fierce strike off the far post in the first minute of the second half.
Ajax went close again when Noussair Mazraoui took a Neres cutback and forced Adrian into a fine save.
Klopp responded to their lethargy by taking off Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Mane, with the latter needing ice on his right leg as he sat on the bench.
Takumi Minamino, one of Klopp’s substitutes, nearly had an instant impact when his shot was almost spilled into the net by Andre Onana.
Jurgen Ekkelenkamp almost snatched a late equalizer after a mistake from Adrian, but Liverpool held their nerve to provide a morale-boosting start to life without Van Dijk.