Speed Reads

I've a feeling we're not in a bubble anymore

Houston Rockets' COVID-19 contact tracing highlights new challenges in post-bubble NBA

The NBA's plan to restart the 2019-20 season, which went on hiatus for several months because of the coronavirus pandemic, in a bubble environment in Orlando went as well as anyone could have hoped. For nearly two months, there wasn't a single COVID-19 case, and only one player was sent home for breaking protocol. But the league decided not to run the strategy back for the 2020-21 season, which tipped off Tuesday night. The decision is certainly understandable — having playoff teams spend several weeks living at a resort is different than playing an entire season in a bubble — but that doesn't mean it will be easy, and the Houston Rockets are proof.

On Tuesday, ESPN reported that several Rockets players, including John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, were sent home ahead of their opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder because of COVID-19 contact tracing, and the Rockets and the NBA are also reportedly reviewing video which purportedly shows Houston's disgruntled star James Harden partying at a club without a mask this week.

Wall, Cousins, and Kenyon Martin Jr. were reportedly among a group of teammates who got haircuts at an apartment together. It appears Martin was the player to receive a positive test result. Cousins and Wall have tested negative for the virus, and the team is reportedly waiting on further results on Martin, so it's not entirely out of the question they'll be able to play. But as things stand, the group is expected to miss the game, and a cancellation isn't out of the question.

MLB did not utilize a bubble this year, and despite some hiccups it completed its shortened season relatively smoothly. The NFL has likewise gone bubble-less and mostly made things work, so there's no reason to believe the NBA can't pull it off. But the simplicity of the bubble is a thing of the past.