An NBA bubble is coming to Detroit so the Pistons can play again. Here’s how it will work

Detroit Free Press

Daily COVID-19 tests. An enclosed, campus-like environment. Five-on-five basketball. 

If this sounds like the NBA’s bubble in Orlando, you’re not too far off. 

The Detroit Pistons are among the eight teams left out of the NBA restart at Walt Disney World. This week, those teams will begin a program that’ll allow them to scrimmage and hold full practices for the first time since their seasons ended March 11. 

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association last month reached an agreement to allow the Pistons and the other seven teams to hold in-market, voluntary group workouts with comprehensive health and safety protocols in place. The program, pulling from the same rulebook that has kept the Orlando bubble COVID-19 free for more than two months, officially tips off Sept. 14.

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Six months since the Pistons were last allowed to take the court as a team, here’s what to expect when they return: 

What will the program consist of?

The program will take place in two phases. The first phase, which starts Monday and ends Sept. 20, will introduce daily testing for all of the players and staff participating in the group workouts. It will continue the voluntary, individual workouts the Pistons are engaging in since they reopened their practice facility June 4. 

Phase two, which starts Sept. 21 and ends Oct. 6, will move all of the group workout participants into a hotel to create a “campus” within the city of Detroit. The campus will include daily testing and private accommodations for everyone involved. 

Up until this month, the so-called “Delete Eight” (hat-tip to The Athletic’s John Hollinger, the nickname’s inventor) were only allowed to hold one-on-one workouts between players and staffers, with a bevy of restrictions preventing full practices and scrimmages. Once the in-market campus is established, many of those restrictions will be lifted through the duration of the program. 

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Who will participate in the group workouts? 

The workouts are voluntary, meaning it’s unlikely the entire Pistons roster will participate. But head coach Dwane Casey has strongly suggested all of his young players — including Sekou Doumbouya, Bruce Brown, Svi Mykhailiuk and Luke Kennard — would benefit from participating and should participate. 

When addressing reporters last month, Casey noted that several of the league’s young players, such as Michael Porter Jr., Jamal Murray and Devin Booker, have flourished inside the Orlando bubble and benefitted from the additional playing time. The group workouts will give the Pistons a chance at capturing some of that. 

“That’s something we’ve missed out on,” Casey said. “Hopefully this will give us the opportunity for guys to go competitively five-on-five, three-on-three, whatever the number is to get some competition because that’s so important for the growth, especially for a kid like Sekou, going into his second year.”

Casey said it’s unlikely that Blake Griffin or Derrick Rose, the elder statesmen on the roster, will join the group workouts. Christian Wood, a free agent this offseason, was also a question mark — though Casey added that Wood had been at the Henry Ford Pistons Performance Center working out with trainers. 

The Pistons will also be allowed to invite up to five players who are not currently under an NBA contract, but who were under an NBA G League contract and assigned to the team’s NBA G League affiliate during the 2019-20 season, per a release from the league.

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When will the Pistons see the court again after the workouts?

As of now, it’s unclear. 

The league has yet to pin down a start date for the 2020-21 season; recent reports suggest Christmas could be the earliest we’ll see the Pistons play basketball. Casey anticipates the Pistons will resume one-on-one workouts. He’s also mindful of the injury risk that comes with ramping up activity following a long layoff from play. 

Casey said he’s impressed with the conditioning level of his players, considering they weren’t able to access team facilities from March 11 until early June. But the Pistons will exercise some caution during the group workouts, considering there could be a second long layoff between the conclusion of the program and the start of training camp for next season. 

“We’ve been working with the medical people trying to time that, especially guys coming back from injury like Blake and Luke. We don’t want to ramp them up to where they’re ready to go right away. But we have to get some serious work in during the bubble two weeks, because we haven’t had competition since March 11 and guys haven’t gone body-to-body since March 11. 

“We can go hard these two weeks and have a plan after that to go, give probably a week or so off and then ramp it back up again with the individual workouts or whatever the league allows us to do after that,” he continued. “But again, we have to be careful and not ramp up too high and still have two, three more months before we hit training camp.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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