Way back in March of 2020 Adam Silver made the call to
suspend the 2019-2020 NBA season after learning of Rudy Gobert’s positive Coronavirus
test, being that it was at the very beginning of the pandemic and it brought
attention to the risk of spreading the virus across the league and beyond. Just
about 10 months later the world is still facing a pandemic and the NBA finds
itself in a similar situation as in March, but Adam Silver seems to be taking a
The NBA took their time preparing to find a safe, logical, science
backed approach to resume the last season, and while some may argue that it
wasn’t perfect it still accomplished nearly everything it set out to do. Despite
the lack of fans, the NBA was able to retain a fair amount of revenue that
would have been lost if the season were cancelled. The top teams were able to
go out and compete for a championship, giving us some much-needed entertainment
while we were all sitting on our asses at home. Amazingly enough, there were 0 positive
tests for the remainder of the season when it resumed.
There was a lot of careful planning that went into making
all this possible, but probably the biggest factor was the use of a “bubble.” The
eligible teams were confined to the Disney World campus in Orlando, Florida so
that they couldn’t be exposed to outside contaminants and would essentially
shelter themselves from Covid. The teams lived and played on campus until their
playoff runs came to an end, at which point they were literally sent home and into
the real world to do as they please. In the end the Los Angeles Lakers (unfortunately
enough) defeated the Miami Heat in the finals, and throughout the life of the
bubble each and every game was played with no Covid-related obstructions.
◾️ LeBron James wins his fourth NBA championship ◾️ Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard win first title; second for Rajon Rondo ◾️ Lakers win No. 17 ◾️ NBA finishes historic season amid coronavirus; zero positives among players over 4 months pic.twitter.com/VsIQ7vx7VJ
Fast forward to today where it looked like we were going to
have a relatively normal season, but now find games getting postponed as teams struggle
to field enough eligible players to play a game, the Celtics included. Several players of all
calibers are being sidelined for being exposed to someone who has contracted
the virus or having caught it themselves like Jayson Tatum. Some teams, like the 76ers, are being
forced to play with just 8 players since they technically meet the minimum required
active players for a game which was set by the league.
No organization wants to play a game w/ eight players, especially against an opponent like Denver. Sixers might prefer postponement, but NBA's under pressure to keep a balanced playing field for each team faced w/ these situations in pandemic. This will be a recurring instance.
The Sixers found themselves in this position after Seth
Curry came back with a positive test this past Thursday. The most confusing
part about it is that Curry was still present for shootarounds and the
beginning of their game against the Brooklyn Nets before hearing about the
Curry spent the first quarter on bench before Sixers were made aware of a positive test, sources said. Curry then left the court-area and headed into isolation.
It turns out that this wasn’t just a one-time thing either.
Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas was caught in a similar situation,
except before quarantining he logged 14 minutes in their game, also against the
Nets. (via NBA.com)
Grizzlies’ Jonas Valanciunas is out for remainder of tonight's Grizzlies-Nets game due to health and safety protocols, team says.
Beyond the players who caught the virus, several players are
required to sit out of games and quarantine due to “contact tracing” which the
NBA describes as somehow figuring out if a player spent a total of 15 minutes
within 6 feet of someone who has tested positive.
NBA players typically land in the health and safety protocols when they register a positive coronavirus test OR when they have “close contact” with someone who has tested positive ... “close contact,” as the CDC defines it, being within six feet for at least 15 minutes
Although a vaccine has been developed and we have more knowledge
of how to operate in the Covid world, the vaccine has not been distributed to
the masses and the threat of catching and spreading the virus is still ever
present. One could argue that the NBA is in an even worse position than they were
when the season was suspended last time. Still, they seem reluctant to take a
ESPN Sources: While the Celtics-Heat game has been postponed tonight, the NBA has no plans to pause the season despite thinning rosters because of COVID-19 protocols in several places.
This seems uncharacteristic of Adam Silver given his past handling
of difficult situations during his time as commissioner. In my eyes there are
only two reasons as to why this is. First reason, the NBA and the owners are
extremely confident in their preparation, planning, and their ability to push
through this rough patch towards smoother sailing. The other reason is the
thing that rules us all, money. The league is likely already operating at a
loss without fans but suspending the season again would undoubtedly have major
impacts on their income and future salary caps, maybe to a point where they are
almost forced to continue.
With the success of the bubble many people are wondering why
the NBA didn’t just opt to do that again for this season. It basically boils
down to once again financial reasons, the impact the bubble had on player’s and
staff’s mental health, and space logistics. You may remember that when the
bubble began only 22 of the 30 teams were invited, and the remaining 8 teams ended
up going from March until December without playing basketball. 6 of the 22
teams that made the bubble were sent home within a few weeks after failing to
qualify for the playoffs. The NBA likely accounted for all this due to limited
space and the fact that housing and supporting that many people for three and a
half months would be extremely expensive. Doing so for a full season would
probably be a logistical and financial nightmare.
Speaking of nightmares, it turns out the bubble was
extremely rough on the players. In the limited time in which the bubble was
running we as fans were really only shown the highlights. We got to watch basketball
and see the players hang out with each other at the resort, playing golf,
fishing, swimming, etc. What we didn’t see, and more importantly experience,
was the players being isolated from their friends and family with phones being
the only way to have contact with the outside world. Now some people may be
thinking something along the lines of “tough shit, I would love to get away
from my family and live on a resort playing basketball and golf all day.” I’m
sure some of the players thought that too, but many of us don’t realize what
kind of toll that really takes. The Celtics’ very own Jaylen Brown spoke up
about this while he was still in the bubble.
Jaylen Brown on mental health for NBA players in the bubble:
This is likely a big reason why the NBA shied away from
going this route for the 20-21 season. It’s easy as fans to look in and say
that they should just suck it up and play since they’d be making millions doing
it, but in this case, I sympathize with the players and understand why they are
trying to avoid it. That being said, it has not been completely ruled out.
Last month, Adam Silver suggested a bubble option could still be in play at some point, and it may be necessary to protect the integrity of the season. This week has been the NBA's roughest yet.
It seems like this is something like a second to last resort
with the only less likely option being to cancel the season all together. The current
plan is still to push through, but with so many teams missing key players to
the point where thinned out rosters may be forced to postpone, forfeit, or maybe
worse yet have their players play to the point of exhaustion and risk injury,
it’s hard to say how long it is before some major changes come. There are some minor
things being worked out as I write this, but we’ll just have to wait and see if
they make any real impact.
As the NBA battles the latest coronavirus outbreak, expect the league to tighten its restrictions on player movement, per sources. Also possible to see rosters expanded. A lot of small stuff on the table.
The best we can do as fans is to remain vigilant in our own
daily lives to help reduce the spread and hope that the league can recover
quickly with minimal damage. There is no doubt in my mind that Adam Silver, the
board of governors, the owners, and the NBPA are all working together to figure
out how to do exactly that. In the meantime stay safe, stay healthy, and go