LOS ANGELES -- Sixteen NBA players have tested positive for the coronavirus, news that came on the same day that the league and its players announced they were moving forward with a comprehensive plan to restart the season near Orlando, Fla., even as positive cases of the virus that shut down the season surge.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts and NBPA president Chris Paul expressed varying levels of optimism Friday about the planned season reboot on the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex despite a drastic rise in positive tests in the counties surrounding the league's proposed bubble.
Silver said that while the league possibly would be considering different locations had it been choosing a place to resume its season today, he believes the NBA has created the best possible environment for its players considering the circumstances.
"My ultimate conclusion is that we can't outrun the virus and that 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 and so that we are -- it's a closed network, and that while it's not impermeable, we are in essence protected from cases around us," Silver said. "At least that's the model. For those reasons we're still very comfortable being in Orlando."
Cases in Orange County, Fla., where the Disney campus is located, have risen sharply since the NBA first voted to resume play with 22 teams this month. On Thursday, the county reported 727 new cases of the virus, with a positive test rate of 17.9%. Slightly more than a week ago, residents of the county were mandated to wear masks when in public to fight the climb in infection rates.
One person in the league not authorized to speak publicly laughed when asked about the possibility of a "Plan B" location -- too much work has gone into the protocols for Orlando and couldn't be replicated elsewhere. Either games are happening on the Disney campus or they're not happening.
One of the biggest concerns among players and executives headed to Orlando had to do with Disney workers who would be living in their homes off campus. Silver said that in response to rising positive tests, the league was working with Disney to produce regular testing for workers who would potentially share spaces with NBA players or staff.
The league conducted 302 tests this week with 5.298% positive. The league has not released test results for coaches or support staff members who were also tested at the start of the week.
"I think one (positive) would have been concerning, but God forgive me, I'm somewhat relieved that the number was not higher," Roberts said. "I'm also relieved that we had the foresight to identify the players that would be testing positive now because our goal, of course, is to make sure that when guys do report to campus that they'd be reporting having been tested negative.
"I've been holding my breath for the last few weeks, and again, maybe I should be less enthusiastic or optimistic. If nothing else, it's told me that the great majority of our players have been doing exactly what they should have been doing, which is keeping safe. Again, one is too many, but 150 would have been devastating."