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NBPA head Michele Roberts: ‘Bubble’ cities idea ‘sounds like incarceration’

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts has voiced her opposition to the NBA’s “bubble” cities concept, likening the details inherent to such a scenario to players being imprisoned.

Speaking with Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Roberts’ skepticism came through loud and clear, adding the reception by players when the idea was first floated amounted to “consternation.”

The “bubble” city concept was extensively laid out in an article last week by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps and Brian Windhorst. Essentially, players would be isolated away from their families in quarantine and closely monitored while only traveling between a hotel and playing/practice facilities.

“Are we going to arm guards around the hotel?” Roberts said of the concept, which would require some level of surveillance to make it work. “That sounds like incarceration to me.”

The balancing act between player privacy and the necessary oversight that would have been needed to pull of such a plan was of the highest concern for many players.

“So then the players were like, ‘Well, I don’t know that it’s worth it to be away from my family for that long,'” Roberts said. “We could do all that, and then what happens when one or two or 10 players test positive after that 28-day isolation? Do we shut it down?”

There obviously would be myriad obstacles and potential pitfalls to overcome to make the “bubble” plan doable, though it merits noting that the concept was never officially presented to the players. NBA commissioner Adam Silver was believed to be receiving the same feedback about the plan as Roberts, and he relayed as much to team owners.

Silver and Roberts will jointly host a conference call with players on Friday, which will provide a forum for players to voice their concerns as well as put forth the countless pressing questions about the NBA’s ongoing hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic and how the league will approach resuming the 2019-20 season, if at all.

“This is a world with the virus,” Roberts said. “And we have to figure out a way to work, play and live in a world with the virus.

“The questions have now evolved from, ‘Are we going to play again?’ to, ‘If we play, what are the risks going to look like?'”