ADam Silver has a plan. The NBA Commissioner and his committees have worked tirelessly to find a way to save the 2019-20 season. After much deliberation, the league devised a way to bring 22 NBA teams to Walt Disney World, where they will play a shortened regular season (eight games) to end the start of the playoffs followed by a full postseason. In a perfect world, the resumption of basketball would be a symbolic first step in showing that the United States is ready to move on from the coronavirus pandemic.
However, is the United States ready to emerge from the pandemic?
Absolutely not. In fact, the NBA plans to celebrate the rest of the season in a state that has seen a surge in cases. On Monday, the Florida Department of Health confirmed that the state had reached the 100,000 mark.
But doesn’t the NBA force anyone to play?
Right. Participation is entirely voluntary, meaning players who don’t feel it will be safe, or who think it would be a distraction from the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, can sit without penalty more than the lost salary. In fact, Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley announced this week that he won’t participate. “At a time like this,” Bradley said, “I can’t imagine making a decision that can put my family’s health and well-being at the slightest risk.”
Players will almost certainly test positive, right?
Yes. In fact, it’s already happening, as the NBA began testing earlier this month. On Tuesday, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets tested positive and is currently undergoing protocols before being able to travel. Certainly others will be found even before the games start.
Who will come to this Disney / basketball mix?
Each team will be allowed 17 players, their full rosters of 15 men along with their two-way players as backup (the league expects some wear and tear here). Additionally, teams will have a variety of coaches and training personnel, up to 37 people per organization. No one, not even LeBron James, will be able to receive guests until the second round of the playoffs, which means that everyone will spend time away from their families. While players and staff are expected to remain within the bubble, Disney World employees (they are called “cast members”) will obviously not be under such restrictions and will enter the NBA campus from a state where Covid- 19 is currently on the rise.
This all starts to sound like an episode of The Prisoner …
Yes. In fact, the Ringer delved deep into some of the scariest aspects of what NBA players will have to endure during their extended stay in the happiest place on Earth. Haley O’Shaughnessy notes that all players will be required to wear a MagicBand, a bracelet that contains an electronic chip, while some players will have the option of wearing a “smart ring” that is supposed to predict certain symptoms of Covid-19.
Bottom line: The NBA will resume in Florida just as coronavirus cases are emerging in the state. The games themselves will take place at Walt Disney World, where players will be electronically tracked and monitored. There is a very serious risk that restarting the season will directly lead to people becoming seriously ill or even dying. Some players seem to think that even playing basketball could distract people from bigger problems.
Is basketball really worth all this?
Well, market forces have apparently decided yes. Even if Florida’s coronavirus numbers are giving Silver nightmares, and they should, it’s probably too late in the process for him to stop things. It’s not that different from many other business owners trying to figure out when to restart while knowing that that means gambling with workers’ lives. It’s just that their workers are very famous.
In reviewing the league’s plans to deal with the coronavirus, Michele A Roberts of the NBA Players Association told the Associated Press, “Having lived, breathed, and suffered during the hours and hours of understanding the virus, listening to Our experts and comparing different alternative protocols, I can’t even think of anything else we can do other than hermetically seal the players that would keep them safe. “
What the NBA wants us to hear in Roberts’ statement is his insistence that the league had come up with the plan that has the best chance of keeping everyone safe. This is probably true. What the NBA we disconnected would probably have liked is the unspoken acknowledgment that there is no sure way to restart the NBA season under the current circumstances. This is also probably true.
Given all this, do you think there is an ethical way to see and enjoy the rest of the NBA season?
That is a very good question. And the answer may come to haunt the NBA.