(Reuters) – Forty-eight NBA players tested positive for COVID-19, the league said on Wednesday, as players returned to their team’s home markets for the start of the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22.
The NBA said it tested 546 players as part of its “initial return-to-market testing phase,” which kicked off between Nov. 24 and Nov. 30. Anyone who tested positive was placed in isolation until cleared under league rules.
The league had few issues keeping its “bubble” environment at Walt Disney World free of the novel coronavirus as it carried out the end of their delayed season earlier this year, but now faces many of the same challenges other North American leagues have playing in the COVID-19 era.
With the exception of the Toronto Raptors, teams will play in their home markets this season, with individual player workouts starting this week and group workouts beginning Sunday.
The Raptors, the only Canadian team in the league, will start their season in Tampa, Florida, due to tight international travel restrictions, as COVID-19 cases soar in the United States, where hospitalizations hit a record for a fourth consecutive day on Tuesday.
The NFL, which is currently playing, and MLB, which wrapped its truncated, delayed season with the World Series in October, both grappled with numerous game postponements and COVID-19 positives, as players traveled from city to city to compete in a sports landscape thoroughly upended by the pandemic.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Richard Chang)