Milwaukee Bucks: NBA exploring testing options in hope of returning

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 15: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 15: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

With the Milwaukee Bucks’ season still on hold due to the league’s suspension, the NBA has started to explore COVID-19 testing options for a return.

As the global battle against the current coronavirus continues, sport remains far from the most important element of life. Still, the prospect of its return certainly holds significance for many, as it would be some form of suggestion at the possibility of normality returning.

Unfortunately, we’re not particularly close to that point just yet, but the NBA is continuing to explore strategies that could allow the Milwaukee Bucks and the rest of the league’s teams to safely return to action at some point.

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With the positive tests of multiple players to this point, and the high profile fashion in which the season ultimately came to a halt, there’s little doubt that any resumption of play would need to come with very diligent planning and with no shortage of precautions and contingencies in place.

On that front, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes reported on Monday night that both the NBA and the Players’ Association were in the process of assessing the various options for COVID-19 rapid testing, in what could be considered as “a critical first step toward resuming play in the near future”.

According to Holmes:

"“Multiple league sources close to the situation said the league and players union have been looking at what those familiar with the matter describe as “diabetes-like” blood testing in which someone could, with the prick of a finger, be tested quickly, and results could be gained inside of 15 minutes.The Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories began shipping its rapid-response tests across the U.S. last week, according to a Washington Post report. The tests, which have been approved by the FDA, are said to deliver results in five-to-13 minutes.”"

Even in identifying a suitable testing strategy, notable hurdles would remain for the NBA, though. Obstacles to a return to playing would still include the question of whether players would effectively be quarantined to limit their interaction with the outside world, decisions about where games would be played, and crucially just how readily available tests are generally to ensure the league isn’t using tests that could be better served going to those in greater need.

Even beyond that, though, there are some concerns over the possibility of false negative tests, asymptomatic players, or infected players not presenting as positive due to a low viral load in the early stages of disease.

A general manager quoted in Holmes’ piece remarked:

"“The thing that most people are worried about right now is the inevitability — not even likelihood, the absolute inevitability — of a false negative.”"

The route back to the court may well be further complicated by the potential for dissenting opinions among teams, or even at a player-to-player level, given the number of stakeholders involved.

As an example of that, it is worth noting that the Bucks were reportedly one of three teams who wanted the NBA to stop playing even prior to the infamous final night of action before the suspension took place.

Getting everyone on the same page, and at the same time, will not be easy.

More generally, the NBA won’t want to be seen to be flying in the face of public health advice, which would suggest that a resumption could still be some time away.

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Still, while the league continues to explore its options, the possibility of the Bucks’ historic season resuming stays alive.