LOS ANGELES — Lakers forward Jared Dudley says it’s a “misconception” that the NBA would resume its season in a bubble location that is so closely monitored that players would be restricted from exiting the premises until all the games are finished.
“You will be allowed to leave,” Dudley said Wednesday on a video conference call with reporters, citing conversations he has been privy to with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts. “Now just because you leave, if we’re going to give you that leeway, if you come back with corona, you can’t play.”
With the league’s hiatus in response to the coronavirus outbreak nearing the two-and-a-half-month mark, the NBA is considering a two-site format to return to play in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and in Las Vegas, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe.
Dudley said there will be rigorous testing inside the bubble, which Silver has likened to a “campus” environment with the primary places players will spend their time, including hotels, gymnasiums and dining areas, Wojnarowski reported.
“The goal isn’t to have you go to a market for two months to sit in [a] hotel room,” Silver said May 8 on a conference call with players, according to Wojnarowski.
Given his experience with the tendencies of his peers, as a 34-year-old veteran playing on his seventh team in his 13th season, Dudley figures that some players won’t be able to resist expanding on the amenities the league provides and will make excursions to visit people or entertain themselves.
“When you’re dealing with 300 different players — if you’ve seen the [Michael] Jordan documentary, every team’s got a [Dennis] Rodman. He just doesn’t have green and blue hair,” Dudley said, referring to Rodman’s jaunts in “The Last Dance,” when he left the Bulls to go to Las Vegas and WrestleMania. “There’s always someone who’s outside the box, who does that, takes the risk and says, ‘Hey, listen, man, I’m healthy, and I feel good.'”
It would be “somewhat selfish,” Dudley said, for a player to do so. That is the case not just because he could put others at risk — however, if a player were to contract the coronavirus inside or outside the bubble, Dudley believes the frequent testing would show it rather quickly — but also because it would eliminate him from being able to compete with his team for two weeks while he self-quarantines.
“There would be added pressure not to potentially leave so you don’t get the COVID-19,” Dudley said.
With the league trying to fit a full playoff slate in a limited time window, missing two weeks could mean missing a significant portion of the postseason. As an L.A. team dependent on its two stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers, Dudley says, won’t let their All-Stars out of their sight, even if it’s technically allowed by the NBA.
“Bron, AD and all the top guys we have, we’ll be wrapping them in a bubble and not letting them go anywhere,” Dudley said. “You’ll have that be a team rule. Now, it won’t be a league, an NBA rule, but you’d want to say, ‘Listen, guys, we’ve come too far. We’re going to put our family on hold.'”
Every player, Dudley says, owes it not only to his team but also to the league at large to do whatever he can to reduce risk.
“That’s where the responsibility comes for us,” Dudley said. “Sometimes it’s out of our realm, in the sense of, ‘Hey, we got to stay within the bubble. Let’s do this. We got to stay isolated. It’s going to be hard for two months, but it’s something we have to sacrifice.'”
Not doing so, Dudley says, could lead to a scenario in which a star player contracts the virus, and his team is eliminated while he’s forced to quarantine, which would compromise the validity of whatever champion is eventually crowned.
“If you don’t have that, it’d be a bummer not only for the teams but for fans of Kawhi [Leonard], Giannis [Antetokounmpo], LeBron and AD,” Dudley said. “And if they can’t play in the playoffs, it’s going to be a real stain.”