Tuesday was a big news day for the NBA with the league and players union continuing to work on a possible return to basketball for the 2019-20 season. Among the more important pieces of news came from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski who reported that the players’ union conducted an “informal” poll of its players, simply asking whether they would like to resume the 2019-20 season. The NBPA later released a statement via Shams Charania of The Athletic, claiming that there was no “formal” poll which does not necessarily debunk Woj’s report.
In fact, the results from the surveying done by each team’s union representative seemed to come in later on Tuesday. Charania later reported that the NBPA had sent a memo to agents informing them that the “sense” was that both the league and the players wanted to finish the 2019-20 season in some capacity. It’s important to note that only players were surveyed; there is no input from coaches and team and arena staff.
Whether that happens – and how it would look – is, of course, an entirely different matter. Other reports have indicated that players from lottery teams would prefer a return that would only include contending teams which would likely mean ending the regular season as it stands and starting the playoffs. The league has explored the possibility of playing in a “bubble” location such as Las Vegas or Walt Disney World in Orlando to negate the dangers of traveling while also making it possible to play more games in a shorter period of time.
According to Wojnarowski, commissioner Adam Silver also held a conference call with the NBA board of governors detailing how these scenarios could play out. Woj reports that team owners came away optimistic that the league season can resume and continue even if more players test positive once the league starts back up. Of course, that is a dangerous risk that the NBA is presumably considering taking; exposing players to coronavirus endangers not only them but potentially their teammates, families (if they are allowed near them), and staff working the games. There is, however, precedence for such a decision. Several European soccer leagues, from whom Silver has never been shy to take influence, are planning re-starts of their seasons despite players testing positive for COVID-19 during their returns to training.
There is no clear right answer and we all want to see basketball back, especially with the Lakers having a very good chance of winning their 17th NBA championship this season. But while the league keeps pushing forward and a restart of the season gains traction, it more and more seems like a hasty decision and one that could have major consequences.