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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Disney World bubble kept the NBA safe from COVID-19 this summer. Now comes an even greater challenge: staging a 72-game season in the real world.

Why it matters: In the bubble, the NBA made and enforced the rules, set up a complex testing program and operated three arenas. In the real world, teams will be responsible for doing everything themselves.

  • While the NBA can lean on its bubble experience to a certain degree, it has never traveled during the pandemic like MLB and the NFL have.
  • The best the league can do is prepare for all contingencies, as there will almost certainly be bumps in the road along the way.

What they're saying: "I think we are prepared for isolated cases. In fact, based on what we've seen in the preseason [and] watching other leagues operating outside a bubble, unfortunately, it seems somewhat inevitable," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Monday.

Details:

  • 10-day quarantine: If a player tests positive, he must remain in isolation for at least 10 days or pass COVID-19 tests on two consecutive days before returning.
  • Travel rules: Teams can use only pre-approved restaurants and private dining spaces; players are banned from visiting bars, nightclubs and public gyms.
  • Hotel rules: Players are limited to two guests in their rooms and both must be family members or close friends.
  • Expanded rosters: In anticipation of positive tests, the NBA has expanded active game rosters from 13 to 15 players. Plus, two-way players can be active for up to 50 games.

Key dates:

  • Dec. 22-March 4: First half of regular season (best games)
  • March 5-10: All-Star break
  • March 11-May 16: Second half of regular season (schedule TBD)
  • May 18-21: Play-in tournament
  • May 22-July 22: Playoffs

For the record: 24 of the NBA's 30 teams will begin the season without fans, while the following six teams will allow reduced crowds:

  • Cavaliers: 300 fans (1.5% capacity)
  • Jazz: 1,500 (8.2%)
  • Magic: 4,000 (21.2%)
  • Pelicans: 750 (4%)
  • Raptors (in Tampa): 3,800 (18.5%)
  • Rockets: 4,500 (25%)

Worth noting: The Spurs plan to allow a limited number of fans starting on Jan. 1, and the Hawks plan to allow 1,700 fans (10%) starting on Jan. 18.

Looking ahead: NIAID director Anthony Fauci has predicted that most Americans will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine by late spring or early summer, and that "it's possible" we could see full stadiums again in 2021.

  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told SiriusXM NBA Radio that he thinks "things are going to get really fun" in NBA arenas in the season's second half.
  • "We won't be able to eliminate cases and outbreaks, but if we can minimize them, then hopefully it can be as close to a normal season as possible," Cuban told NYT.

Go deeper: Season preview (NBA)

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Jan 20, 2021 - Health

NBA could vaccinate players as public service announcement

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The NBA has discussed having players receive COVID-19 vaccines to educate the public about their safety and effectiveness, commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The coronavirus has disproportionately struck Black communities, who have developed resistance towards vaccinations — and a general distrust of medical institutions — for understandable historic reasons.

Trump political team disavows "Patriot Party" groups

Marine One carries President Trump away from the White House on Inauguration Day. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Donald Trump's still-active presidential campaign committee officially disavowed political groups affiliated with the nascent "Patriot Party" on Monday.

Why it matters: Trump briefly floated the possibility of creating a new political party to compete with the GOP — with him at the helm. But others have formed their own "Patriot Party" entities during the past week, and Trump's team wants to make clear it has nothing to do with them.