Just a few weeks ago, I had essentially accepted the fact that the NBA likely wouldn’t be returning this season. I had heard all of the insane proposals thrown out there as possible ways to finish the season — playing without fans, creating a “bubble” in which all teams stay and play in the same one or two cities, and routinely testing members of all organizations for COVID-19 with those who test positive being subsequently isolated for a 14-day period — and it all sounded basically impossible to pull off in a safe and appropriate manner.
After all, teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz that tested their entire organizations near the beginning of this outbreak were promptly criticized for doing so when tests were so difficult for the average person to obtain, even if they were showing symptoms. How then could the NBA routinely test hundreds of asymptomatic people without massive criticism from the public? Additionally, it would be basically impossible for the league to ensure that all of their members within this “bubble” environment would avoid contact with those outside of the bubble.
Lastly, while games without fans would provide some interesting new twists — such as the ability to hear communication and trash talk between players like never before — it would drain the energy and life from the stadiums that not only makes the NBA playoff atmosphere so incredible, but that players have repeatedly attested to feeding off of for their own motivation. In short, the idea of finishing the season seemed doomed. That is, until this week.
Over the last several weeks, we’ve heard of players having different opinions on whether they think the season should resume or not. CJ McCollum, for instance, seemed hesitant to embrace the concept, telling Yahoo Sports that he was “worried about the risks of teams opening their facilities too soon.” On the other hand, LeBron James, by all standards the leagues most influential voice, didn’t hold back in voicing his support for resuming the season and condemning the idea that it could be canceled:
Now, it sounds like the NBA is attempting to get the opinions of as many players as possible on the matter in order to gauge the general consensus. According to Woj, that process began yesterday with players receiving texts from their regional NBPA representatives:
According to reports, as this was all happening, a group of the league’s largest star figures were already forming their own unofficial, united front in the push to get the season back underway.
While that group flexed their superstar muscle and leverage, a smaller group of players, including the Celtics own Jayson Tatum, reportedly formed an official “working group” with the NBA and NBPA to collaborate on a plan for returning to action. That group reportedly spoke with Adam Silver on Tuesday night, and gained momentum towards a return with the commissioner stating that an official decision should come in the next 2-4 weeks.
We’ve heard already that if the season were to return, there would be a 2-3 week training camp before games would resume, so if momentum continues to head in this direction, we could be looking at a late June resumption. There’s been little indication as to whether the remainder of the regular season would be played, or if the playoffs would begin immediately instead, but Celtics fans might want to cross their fingers that the league goes with the first of those two options as they’d currently be slated to face off against a Sixers team that beat them in three of four regular season meetings.
Whether the league should resume the season or not isn’t something that I’m here to argue. That debate could be turned into a multi-thousand word opinion piece. What I will say though is that any decision, whether a yes or no, is something that I’m eagerly awaiting after over two months of uncertainty and waiting, and I’m sure that most NBA fans are in that same boat. Here’s hoping that we hear something soon, one way or another.
Photo: Frank Franklin II / AP