The NBA brought players back to their home markets last week and began to administer COVID-19 testing in preparation for facilities opening up and training camp beginning on December 1. The league’s efforts to start a season outside of a bubble atmosphere presents a precarious situation with the understanding that positive tests will happen, and it’s simply a matter of the league and teams trying to do their best to mitigate positive tests and the potential spread through a team.
On Wednesday, the league announced the results from their first round of testing last week and, unsurprisingly, there were a fairly significant number of positive tests. The NBA said 48 players tested positive out of 546 tests (8.8 percent positivity rate) and those players are now in isolation and will follow CDC guidelines prior to their return to team facilities. Positive tests were expected, so this is not something that is catching the league off guard, and the upcoming rounds of testing will be far more indicative of whether this season is able to begin as planned and have any kind of successful start. The Warriors have already announced they had two of those positive tests and as a result have pushed the start of their full team workouts back a day from Sunday to Monday of next week.
The positivity rate should begin to decline, particularly during camp, but this will be an ongoing issue for the league as they begin traveling and playing games. We have seen how difficult it has been for the NFL to get through this season, and they have the benefit of playing games just once a week with significantly less travel. The NBA schedule will tell us a lot about how the league plans to handle the travel load of teams and while they’ve been insistent on having as normal a season as possible, how they set up team travel schedules for road trips is more important than ever to try and limit the possibility of spread.