NBA Disney ‘bubble:’ when it starts, how it works, how to watch

The NBA will resume its season in a “bubble” in Disney World on July 30.Players will arrive at Disney July 7-9, go through mini-training camps, then begin games without fans, with daily COVID-19 testing and strict health and safety protocols.Players are not supposed to leave the Disney campus, and it is shut off from other people.A limited number of family members and guests can enter after the first round of the playoffs.Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The NBA is nearing a return to the court for the first time since March 11, when play was suspended for the coronavirus pandemic.The league has reached an agreement to resume play in a “bubble” in Disney World in Orlando, Florida, with games tipping off on July 30.The format is set to be a radical attempt to resume play under historic circumstances. Here’s everything you need to know.What is the bubble?

ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Disney World, where the NBA will resume its season.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The NBA, in essence, is quarantining itself from the rest of society. They’ll play games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, located at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida with teams staying in three different Disney hotels.Players will not be allowed out of the bubble (with some exceptions), and people aren’t allowed in the bubble (at least until later in the playoffs, when some families can join).

Players will be tested for COVID-19 every day and monitored for symptoms. The idea is to control the environment as best as possible and mitigate external factors.What is the format?The NBA is bringing back 22 teams — the 16 current playoff teams, plus six teams still in the playoff race. Nine teams are returning from the Eastern Conference:

via ESPN

And 13 teams are returning from the Western Conference:

via ESPN

Each team will play eight regular-season games to determine seeding before going to the playoffs. In both conferences, if less than four games separate the eighth and ninth seeds, there will be a play-in tournament. The play-in tournament will require one win for the eighth seed and two wins for the ninth seed.

Playoffs will be four rounds of best-of-seven, as usual.When does it begin?Games are scheduled to tip off on Thursday, July 30.But things are already underway. Players have reported back to their team markets for individual and voluntary workouts, and teams are supposed to fly to Orlando on a staggered basis July 7-9. They will then hold mini-camps, with exhibition games over the following three weeks before real games resume.Will there be fans?

No fans will be in attendance when the NBA season resumes.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

No.Details of the broadcasts are scant, but during a media call on Friday, Commissioner Adam Silver said they would have unique, never-before-seen camera angles, enhanced audio of the players and coaches, and halftime performances and concerts.

How to watchIt’s still a little unclear, but regular-season games should be available on local TV broadcasts. There will likely be national TV broadcasts of some games with the playoffs on national TV.Schedules will be released on Friday night.

An NBA ball boy wears gloves during warmups.

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Will players be tested for COVID-19?Yes, daily. The players will also be monitored for symptoms. As the games approach, there may even be point-of-care testing.Players will also have the option to wear Oura rings, which can detect possible signs of COVID-19 before symptoms set in.

What happens if a player tests positive for COVID-19?They’ll be self-isolated in different housing from the rest of the teams. Players will also be retested to confirm positive tests or to see if it was a false positive.To end the isolation, players must be asymptomatic, return two negative tests more than 24 hours apart, and get clearance from a physician.What if there is a COVID-19 outbreak?Silver told reporters on Friday that the league is still working through the exact protocols if multiple players test positive for the novel coronavirus. Silver said while one positive test, regardless of the player’s status, won’t stop play. However, a severe enough outbreak could halt games.

The Grand Floridian will house some NBA players.


What will players do in the bubble?Players will have numerous activities available to them, from pools, golf courses, running trails, fishing spots, dining areas, lounges with card tables, video games, TVs, and movie screenings. There may even be DJ sets.

However, the rules are also strict. Players are expected to physically distance, wear masks at all times (with exceptions like eating, exercising, or doing an activity alone), and stay out of each other’s hotel rooms. There are also strict sanitization rules. For instance, playing cards will be thrown out and replaced after every game, and players should not eat while doing any activities.Are families allowed?After the first round of the playoffs, teams will each be given one room to accommodate guests. Individuals are responsible for the cost of the room.Who else is allowed in the bubble?Each team is allowed a traveling party of 37 people, which includes coaches, trainers, medical staff, equipment staff, etc.Players will also have access to hair cuts, manicures, pedicures. 

Additionally, Disney staff will be going in and out of the bubble for housekeeping, sanitizing, and more. The NBA is working on testing procedures for some Disney staff.What if a player leaves the bubble?Players are not supposed to leave (with some pre-approved exceptions, like weddings, the birth of a child, medical care off-site, etc.), but no one will be stopping them. If players leave without approval, they may face 10-14 days of quarantine, plus the more invasive nasal swab tests that the league is otherwise avoiding during the frequent COVID-19 testing.Additionally, players will be deducted pay for each game they miss while quarantining. When will the bubble end?Playoffs are scheduled to begin on August 17, with the Finals scheduled to start on September 30. Game 7 of the Finals (if necessary) would be October 13.LoadingSomething is loading.

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