OKC Thunder: Smart people are working to bring back the NBA
Optimism abounds that the NBA season will resume, after a conference call between commissioner Adam Silver and player representatives Tuesday. Final decisions and details remain a long way off – perhaps several weeks. But there appears to be a path to at least attempt to resume the season.
And sources told NBA insiders that Silver is promoting a “campus” model, in which teams and personnel would be housed together, like in Orlando (Disney World) or Las Vegas (one of the casino complexes). Orlando seems most likely, since Disney is shuttered by the pandemic.
Such a model fits nicely with the model espoused by Dr. Glenn Copeland, an orthopedic specialist for the Toronto Blue Jays who is part of QuestCap, a company working with the major sports leagues on how to return to play. I interviewed Copeland last week while hosting a Sports Animal radio show and found him fascinating.
Copeland said there is no textbook, no blueprint, on how to deal with this situation. So there are no guarantees. QuestCap is an organization that brings collective knowledge to the table and seeks to provide a solution.
Copeland advocates a three-zone approach: the outside zone, which is basically society at large; a middle zone, where testing is conducted; and an interior zone, where competition takes place.
In the middle zone, tests are conducted and medical personnel look for symptoms. In the interior zone, social distancing still is practiced, though that’s not practical for most sports. Once athletes and personnel leave the interior zone after competition, they pass back through the middle zone for another test and symptom seeking.
Copeland said the goal is stop cases from getting into the inner zone, and if one does enter, make sure it’s detected quickly.
“Catch them and get them away so there’s no spread,” Copeland said. “That’s the magic.”
The key, of course, is producing enough tests to implement such a process.
The QuestCap model is not the same as the NBA’s apparent campus model, which seemingly would quarantine all personnel allowed in the campus, though that could include families.
Copeland said the zone model works best at one or two sites, not 30 – baseball has declared it prefers to play in home stadiums. It’s easier to monitor or change one or two sites, he said, instead of 30.
“There are answers,” Copeland said. “They are not perfect answers. When you bring all the great medical minds together, the teams’ GMs, look at risk vs. rewards, it’s looking very positive. Players want to get back. They want to be safe.”
Patience, he said, is the key. If the model proves effective at one venue, then maybe it can expand. Whatever the NBA or Major League Baseball end up doing, the NFL will benefit from their experience.
“We’ll know exactly the safety and risks involved,” Copeland said. “I think the NFL’s going to be the benefactor getting started.”
Copeland said the zone model could also be used in the business world.
The good news is that whether or not the QuestCap model is adopted, rest assured that all kinds of smart people are working on how to bring back sports, as soon as possible but safely.