With the San Antonio Spurs set to travel to Orlando, Florida on Thursday, head coach Gregg Popovich has opted in to make the trip. This news comes despite the fact that Popovich is amongst an at-risk age for being more vulnerable to COVID-19. It also arrives as cases have been surging in the state of Florida, with the NBA’s planned restart weeks away.
Gregg Popovich, Mike D’Antoni Both Making Orlando Trip
At age 71, Gregg Popovich is the league’s oldest coach and longest-tenured. He’s now been coaching the San Antonio Spurs for over two decades and despite recent NBA rumors, doesn’t seem likely to coach elsewhere. The second-oldest coach in the league is the Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni at age 69.
Both Popovich and D’Antoni will be part of their teams’ trips to Orlando. They’ll continue their roles as head coach for the Spurs, and Rockets, respectively. The Rockets have better NBA championship odds when it comes to the restart. That seems to give D’Antoni a bit more reason to go.
Popovich is looking to continue a tradition of his team qualifying for the playoffs. If the Spurs can somehow get the No. 8 seed, it will be 23 consecutive appearances.
The news of Popovich’s decision to travel with the time was reported by San Antonio Express-News’ Mike Finger. The report mentions that Popovich was initially going to coach LeBron James and other basketball stars in Tokyo for the Olympics.
However, plans for that were shifted, as they were with much of the world due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Pop will commit to as much as five weeks at the Orlando bubble site.
D’Antoni gave comments about the upcoming situation, including a statement that he planned to wear a mask while coaching, just as he does for months.
NBA Safety Protocols in Place, but Concerns Continue
The risks are certainly there for the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich and Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni. However, the NBA has come up with a plan to do their absolute best to protect the health and safety of players and personnel at the Orlando bubble site.
That’s included giving everyone a 113-page manual which includes rules, guidelines, and other information for participating in the bubble. Testing will be done regularly for everyone at the site. Per a recent ESPN report, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also said they’ll test everyone upon their arrival at the site and then quarantine for two days.
The commissioner also mentioned the potential for the bubble to burst. That could happen if multiple players and/or personnel test positive once they’ve gone through that.
“What would be most concerning is once players enter this campus and then go through our quarantine period, then if they were to test positive or if we were to have any positive tests, we would know we would have an issue,” Silver said during a virtual interview with Fortune Brainstorm Health.
There have already been a number of reports of players and or members of team traveling parties testing positive ahead of the planned restart. Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets tested positive while in Serbia but is still planning to participate. Most recently, the Brooklyn Nets had two players test positive. Taurean Prince and Spencer Dinwiddie won’t be a part of the team during the restart.
That said, Gregg Popovich has clearly weighed the risks and rewards to make his decision. At the end of the day, Pop is looking to get back to the work he loves and do his best to safely guide his latest group to yet another playoff appearance. Visit our Spurs news page for more of the latest team and player updates.