(by Steve Hopkins)
When the NBA restarts the professional basketball season on July 30, it will be under strict lockdown rules that are designed to keep the players, staff, and families separated and safe. The protected area is being called the NBA’s “bubble”. The NBA released over a 100 page s or new rules for NBA players and staff within the bubble. Table Tennis features prominently in the pages of these new health protocols.
The area cordoned off as the “bubble”, which opens for player arrivals on July 7, will be at Disney World at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Hotels will include player lounges. Those lounges will include billiards, video games, and ping pong. Ping pong actually has two sets of rules noted: (1) In addition to picking up disinfected paddles and ping pong balls, players and team staff should disinfect the table surface with a disinfectant wipe or spray prior to beginning the game, and (2) Until directed otherwise by the NBA, players should play singles only so that they can maintain six feet of distance from each other. Another section references disinfecting equipment in general (and mentions paddles and balls).
Obviously there are pages and pages of other rules referencing social distancing and masks and cleaning and testing. There are other sections referencing outdoor sports like golf (where caddies are forbidden), and they are steering players towards more relaxed activities (like walking, swimming, and lounging at the pool). Staff who live in the bubble will limit their contacts with those outside the bubble, but they will also be able to relax some of the testing and mask wearing protocols – while those who leave the bubble will have quarantine and mask rules designed to minimize potential exposure to players and coaches and staff. Penalties for not following the rules include a mandatory 10 day quarantine.
There are a lot of rules and a lot of downtime for a lot of players staff. It is nice to see our sport as a featured activity in the venture, and as an interest of many of these very famous athletes.
I, for one, look forward to seeing the NBA back on TV next month. And in regard to taking bets on the best players, I’m not betting against LeBron James in anything. *The photo of LeBron, incidentially, is from the 2012 Nike Festival of Sport in Shanghai.