LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. >> It’s the number that everyone in the world wants to reach: zero. On a small scale, in a costly process, the NBA has reached it.
Among the 346 players being tested for coronavirus on the campus at Walt Disney World resort, there have been zero new cases diagnosed since July 13, the NBA and the players’ association announced Monday afternoon. The number of positive cases started at 16 when the league began testing last month. There were 25 additional positive tests of players in the following week, July 2, with an additional 10 staff members testing positive. Since July 2, 19 more players have tested positive and quarantined in their home locations. Two positive tests were caught entering quarantine on campus to the NBA’s restart.
While the NBA has a long way to go to its mid-October finish to the season — and numerous other hurdles to consider — dropping player cases to zero on campus gave the league a huge sigh of relief in an experiment that hasn’t really been attempted before in major American sports. It was the most convincing sign yet that the bubble is doing what it was intended to do: withstand the influx of COVID-19 that has been on the rise around the country and particularly in Central Florida.
Case numbers for other attendees — including coaches, staff, league personnel, media and Disney employees — were not released, making it unclear if the campus has scrubbed itself clear of coronavirus through a mixture of daily testing and recommended health and hygiene procedures.
Some players who have tested positive are quarantined within their home markets until they clear multiple negative tests in succession. The Rockets’ Russell Westbrook and the Bucks’ Pat Connaughton are two such players who plan to join their teams in the bubble once they clear protocols.
Kyle Kuzma among practice standouts
In the closing moments of the first semi-public practice the Lakers have held in months, Frank Vogel stopped a late play in its tracks. He wanted his team to look to Kyle Kuzma as an offensive option in the set, noting that he had shot 9 for 10 in the team’s scrimmage on Saturday.
That should perk the ears of fans who have been waiting for the third-year forward to start ascending: Kuzma has struggled to find consistency as a sixth man this year, struggling with both the slide to the bench behind Anthony Davis and a number of injuries. Since the Lakers have begun group practices in the last week, Vogel said, Kuzma has been one of the most impressive players, threading together “dominant” stretches.
“The shot making wasn’t always there, but it’s been there at a very high level during this restart,” Vogel said. “We’re very encouraged and excited about what having sort of a real training camp, a healthy training camp, could mean for him.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s grip on Avery Bradley’s starting role seemed more assured this week, as Vogel said he was “pretty sure” the guard who started for Bradley during an injury earlier this season would start again when the Lakers take the floor on Thursday for a scrimmage against the Mavericks.
Markieff Morris, who has an excused absence from the team but is expected to rejoin the group during the restart, was the only missing Laker from Monday’s practice.