There remains an abundance of questions around the NBA’s planned bubble league restart in Florida in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Doc Rivers addressed some regarding the status of his Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. He also had critical words for leadership that’s overseen a nationwide coronavirus spike.
Rivers says he expects all Los Angeles Clippers players to attend the Disney World bubble. At the same time, he’s leaning on “hope” that the bubble maintains a healthy environment for its players while urging caution around the pandemic.
‘It’s just hope’
“I’m hoping, quite honestly — and it’s just hope, that when we get to the bubble, it becomes the safest place in America,” Rivers told reporters on a video conference call Wednesday.
Rivers’ comments arrive a day after Adam Silver made that exact case in support of the league’s restart while Florida experiences an alarming coronavirus outbreak. Silver said during an appearance in a Time 100 talk Tuesday that he expects the bubble to be safer for players and staff inside than they would experience in their daily lives.
“Our model was designed to protect us and our players from cases outside the community,” Silver said. “Maybe at the time we designed it, we didn’t think it would be as necessary as it is now.”
Rivers criticizes federal response to pandemic
Rivers wasn’t as assured as Silver. And he took the opportunity to criticize the federal government’s response to the pandemic. He didn’t mention President Donald Trump by name. But his implication was clear.
“But we don’t know any of this,” Rivers continued. “And yeah, this pandemic — it seems like obviously — I guess this is the only political statement I’ll make on it.
“It would be great if we had national leadership, which we have zero on this. And so unfortunately, everyone is left to do their own thing from state to state and in some places from city to city. It’s absurd.”
Will Clippers be at full strength for NBA restart?
The pandemic and the social unrest in the aftermath of George Floyd’s homicide have led to questions about which players will actually show up for the bubble. Rivers expects a full roster of Clippers players to arrive at Disney World.
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley led a coalition arguing that the bubble league would interfere with players’ ability to participate in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Irving is injured and wasn’t going to play to begin with. Bradley opted out and was replaced on the Lakers roster by J.R. Smith. Meanwhile a handful of other NBA players have opted out, including Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertrans and Portland Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza.
Rivers would be ‘surprised’ if Lou Williams sits out
Clippers guard Lou Williams has said that he was “50-50” on joining his team in Orlando, echoing concern that basketball would distract from the Black Lives Matter movement. But Rivers said on Wednesday that he expects Williams and the rest of his teammates to travel to Disney World.
“I would be very surprised if he is not,” Rivers said of Williams being with the team.
That’s good news for the Clippers as they travel to Florida among the teams favored to win a championship. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner is a key part of the Clippers rotation.
Rivers calls for police reform
But Rivers didn’t completely rule out a player opting out and said that he would support a decision any player made to do so. Rivers shared his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and George Floyd while calling for police reform.
"Clearly, we want reform,” Rivers said. “That's what everyone should want. We want good. ... It's important for us to get this right.
“Just watch it in full,” Rivers continued while talking about the video of Floyd’s death. "If that doesn't change you or affect you then you have no feelings.”
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