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No Bubble for the N.B.A. Season? It’s a Problem

  • January 13, 2021

(Questions may be lightly edited or condensed for clarity.)

Q: The N.B.A. made a deal with the Capitanes de Ciudad de México to become the 29th G League franchise and play this season. What is their status? — @JDogindy from Twitter

Stein: Capitanes won’t be one of the 18 teams in the forthcoming G League bubble at Walt Disney World, but I’m told that the team is expected to begin playing in the 2021-22 season. The assumption, if we dare, is that neither the N.B.A. nor the G League will be gripped by a pandemic by then, making it easier to finally embark on this long-anticipated grand experiment with the league’s first franchise outside the United States and Canada.

The G League bubble will feature 17 of its 28 current franchises and the Ignite select team, which gives elite draft prospects like Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga and Daishen Nix a different path to the professional ranks than playing in college or overseas. There is a fee of about $500,000 for the N.B.A. teams that are sending their G League affiliates to the bubble. Some parent clubs balked, because of the cost or because they intended to use their players on two-way contracts at the N.B.A. level for the entire season to mitigate potential roster shortages caused by injuries or virus protocols.

On the players’ side, there is added incentive for those aspiring to reach the N.B.A. Participation in what some are calling the “glubble,” or the “gubble,” not only showcases them in a well-scouted league but puts players into the N.B.A.’s coronavirus testing program. That will shorten the quarantine-related delays all new players face when they are signed by an N.B.A. team. Monday’s G League draft attracted nearly 200 players for less than 30 available roster spots.

Q: We need a better name than “baseball-style series” when a team plays two road games in a row against the same host. They don’t play two-game series in baseball. — @MackMachine80 from Twitter

Stein: Agreed. I’ve had similar thoughts every time I type the phrase.

Sadly that is also an admission that I haven’t come up with anything better. The description stems from baseball’s distinction as the only major team sport known for parking its teams in the same city for three or four days, but I’m with you — and open to suggestions. Send them in.

Unclear, though, is whether these are schedule anomalies we will be discussing beyond this season. It’s something the league is studying after the absence of travel was frequently cited as one of the pluses of the Disney World bubble. The reduction in travel these two-game sets provide is sensible this season, when teams are trying to protect their traveling parties from the virus, but I am not a fan because they are yet another factor in teams’ dwindling home-court advantage these days.

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