It has now been over two months since the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, and in the meantime, there have been all sorts of ideas and conversations about how to get back on the court. The mood has alternated between optimistic and pessimistic on a frequent basis, as the health crisis continues to grip the country.
But on Tuesday, it seems like the league took its first significant steps towards resuming the season. After a call with commissioner Adam Silver and the board of governors, those involved said there was momentum building toward resuming play, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The league hopes to make a decision on the future of the season in the next two to four weeks, Shams Charania of The Athletic added.
The call included “significant detail on how other pro sports/leagues — here and abroad — are working toward their returns,” per Wojnarowski, and Silver used the words “campus environment” to describe the bubble where the games are expected to take place.
Perhaps the most interesting note from his report, however, is the assumption that the players, coaches and staffers are going to have to get used to the possibility of positive tests, and that play would continue if that does happen.
Discussions centered on health and safety concerns in a return, including the goal of getting team officials and players comfortable with the idea that a positive test for the coronavirus upon a return would not shutter play.
Silver told those on the call that if a positive test would “shut us down, we probably shouldn’t go down this path.”
There are obviously all sorts of questions to be answered there, including how the testing would be done, where people who test positive will be quarantined, what will happen to their teammates and co-workers, how a positive test would affect the schedule, etc. And beyond that, who will be making those decisions, and will everyone be treated equally?
If, god forbid, LeBron James tested positive for the coronavirus in the middle of the Western Conference finals, would they really just say, “Hey, sorry man, you have to go quarantine. We’ll see you in two weeks, hope the Lakers are still playing.” That seems highly unlikely. But if not, why wouldn’t the same courtesy be extended to a bench warmer or an assistant coach?
Figuring out all of those details, as well as other issues such as how to include coaches and staffers who are older than 65, as well as anyone who may be immunocompromised, will likely take days upon days of negotiation between the league and the union. Even with signs now pointing towards a return to play, there are significant hurdles left to clear.
Everyone wants basketball to come back. Star players such as LeBron, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Steph Curry held a conference call on Tuesday in which they expressed a desire to resume the season, and a straw poll of players by the union found the same. But it shouldn’t return at the expense of the health and safety of every single person involved.