The NBA is slowly marching towards its announced restart date scheduled for the end of July. But as we get closer and closer to the return of basketball, the list of players testing positive for the virus is also slowly growing. At what point do we need to ask ourselves the big question – is this still worth it?
ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk reports that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is still “pretty confident” that the league remains on track to resume regular-season game action in Orlando.
Despite the recent news of more and more NBA players testing positive for the coronavirus, Silver is still trying to manage everything one day at a time. During an appearance on Time 100 Talks, Silver was asked about the possibility of having to scrap the plan in place to return in Disney World and canceling the season entirely.
“Never full steam ahead no matter what,” Silver responded to TIME. “One thing we are learning about this virus is much [is] unpredictable, and we and our players together with their union look at the data on a daily basis. If there were something to change that was outside of the scope of what we are playing for, certainly we would revisit our plans.
“We are testing daily. We haven’t put a precise number on it, but if we were to see a large number of cases and see spread in our community, that would of course be a cause to stop as well.”
But when Silver was asked how they would determine at what point the cases are large enough or the spread severe enough, he didn’t really give a straight forward answer beyond indicating that they would continue to work with experts in the medical field to make their determinations.
“We are going to see as we go,” Silver said. “Certainly if cases are isolated, that’s one thing. A lot of the determination will be our understanding of how our community became infected. That will be part of our judgment in terms of whether we should continue. But certainly if we had a lot of cases, we are going to stop. You cannot run from this virus.”
Although the NBA and its commissioner are of course doing their due diligence to ensure to safety and overall feasibility of a late-summer return, their judgement will definitely be clouded. There are billions of dollars in NBA revenue at stake for the league, and the NBA players themselves. While Silver can’t put a firm number on the maximum volume of cases that the league can stomach, they may very well move the goal posts way further back just by virtue of the money involved.
We heard from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Denver Nuggets have temporarily closed their squad’s training facility after two people scheduled to be part of their 30-plus traveling party to Orlando tested positive for the virus. Both the team’s star Nikola Jokic, and their head coach Michael Malone previously tested positive for the coronavirus themselves.
Pelicans GM David Griffin also recently came out with the latest news that three of their players tested positive as well. Griffin didn’t seem all too deterred by the news, but of course, that’s under the lens of the league’s and teams’ desires to restart else they risk losing out on all their TV money. This he shared for an interview via a virtual press conference on Twitter.
“We’ve had multiple players test positive. The league has a system in place that was designed to catch these cases. That system worked, and we’re just going to deal with it the best we can moving forward. From a basketball standpoint, I think you’re going to see COVID have an enormous impact on teams, and even some of the teams that went into the bubble as a playoff seed So again, this is something where we’re all at the mercy of the same enemy.”
David Griffin spoke of how players testing positive affects teams from a basketball standpoint. However, this virus is something that goes completely beyond the 94 feet of NBA hardwood. Not only would this affect the ability for teams to field their best players, but the major crux here is also that it puts the lives of NBA players, coaches, and behind-the-scenes workers’ lives at risk.
The danger of not being able to determine a hard cap in total positive cases is that they might push the invisible boundaries way beyond the safe zone because of the major short term interests of everyone involved. Just one singular case that pops the bubble in Orlando ends the season in the worst way possible. It will also stir up a media backlash so severe that the league may regret forcing the issue in the first place.
While many players and fans alike would want to the league to resume to get a semblance of normalcy back into their lives, the league needs to understand that just one case was already one too many.
The NBA is clearly trying to adapt to the new normal. But as it stands, the impending return to Orlando will be anything but that.