NBA Union chief: glad Detroit Pistons had a ‘bubble’

With the NBA season about to conclude, players union president Michele Roberts thinks its was a good experience for the Detroit Pistons and other teams not involved in the Disney ‘bubble’ to have been in something similar.

The Detroit Pistons were one of eight NBA teams who were not called to complete the regular season in the ‘bubble’ environment created by the NBA in the Disney World campus near Orlando, Florida.

As (hopefully) a once in a lifetime event, getting a taste of it was a good thing, according to NBA Players Association executive director Michele Roberts in a recent interview with Shams Charania of (Subscription Required) The Athletic. .

After a four-and-a-half delay due to the worldwide pandemic, the NBA assembled 22 teams for eight regular season games and followed with a full playoff schedule. Players stayed at Disney hotels blocked off just for players and staff, and played at the Wide World of Sports courts in front of a bank of virtual fans and virtually no one in person.

NEWPORT BEACH, CA –  Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association Michele Roberts (left) speaks on the Women in Leadership panel at the espnW Summit. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Teams deemed with no chance to qualify for the playoffs in the limited amount of games remaining were not invited. The Pistons ended up just two games behind the Washington Wizards, the team with the worst record that went to the bubble, in the final Eastern Conference standings

Instead, after negotiations with the union, it was decided teams not in Orlando could hold their own training camps in a bubble environment.

Roberts said she was glad that those eight were able to hold their own ‘bubble’ and get to experience, in at least a small way, what the players in Orlando went through. For teams like Detroit, they had not even been together since mid-March.

The Pistons held a three-week series of group workouts in their home market  that ended on  October 3. Of course, it had some differences from the Florida bubble

First, there were no games, just intra-squad scrimmages. The action was held at the Pistons’ own practice site, not in a strange gym at Disney that usually hosts 10-year-old girls AAU tournaments rather than NBA games.

Also, many of the Pistons veterans, or players who are potential free agents did not participate, giving coach Dwane Casey a chance to work with the younger players for an extended period.

Some other points Roberts made in the interview that directly affect Detroit included:

  • She expects the free agency period to start no later then December 1. The NBA Draft is already set for November 18.
  • Roberts hopes to sit down with Commissioner Adam Silver soon after the season and negotiate the salary cap and tax numbers. Before the virus hit, the cap was projected to be $115 million for next season and she would like it to be around that number but is flexible.
  • As for the start of next season, Roberts sees January as a possibility, maybe starting on Martin Luther King’s birthday (January 18). The union will be willing to talk about starting the season before fans are allowed at games.
  • She would not be surprised in the future if the regular season is pushed back on a permanent basis to around Christmas-time to avoid conflict with football in the fall.
  • Although the owners legally can get out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, she sees very little chance of a lockout.

Whatever happens, this will be Roberts last negotiation as she is retiring in March. Among those mentioned as a successor is Pistons assistant general manager Pat Garrity, a former NBAPA union official.