While the path back to the court has been rocky, the NBA still is expected to be on target to finalize plans for the resumption of the season in the coming days.
But how many players will opt out of the Orlando bubble environment remains a question and a real problem for the league.
Already trying to make a halted, shortened season seem valid for the record books and entertaining for the fan base, NBA commissioner Adam Silver is facing the reality that the best-laid plans may not be good enough to convince all of the game’s stars to return to action.
"Our conversations have been with the Players Association and their leadership over the past several months and we’ve worked through all those issues, in terms of health and safety, what the environment will be like for everyone,” Silver said in an interview on ESPN Monday night. “But I can only say it may not be for everyone. It will entail enormous sacrifices on behalf of everyone involved …
“Look, it’s not an ideal situation. We’re trying to find our own normal in the middle of a pandemic, a recession or worse … As we work through these issues I can understand why players feel it’s not for them and it could be for a host of reasons. It might be family reasons, health reasons or as some players have said recently, that their time is best spent elsewhere.
“The Players Association represents 450 guys. For the 22 teams [going to Orlando] when you include the two-way players, we’re talking about bringing 375 players down. Not surprisingly there’s not a uniform view among those players. My sense is we’re going to be able to work through those issues over the next few weeks.”
The NBA season that was suspended after games of March 11 because of COVID-19 was already dealing with the pandemic and trying to find a safe way back when the political climate throughout the nation was rocked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. The virus has some players worried about infection and injury as they are being put into a condensed schedule, but the biggest issue right now for the league is the quest for social justice being led by a large contingent of players.
Nets’ star Kyrie Irving organized a conference call with players Friday that raised the issues and the importance of taking advantage of this moment — one in which NBA players have presented a huge voice and presence. On Monday, Irving and a coalition of players presented a statement to ESPN strongly stating their position.
"We are a group of men and women from different teams and industries that are normally painted as opponents, but have put our egos and differences aside to make sure we stand united and demand honesty during this uncertain time … We are truly at an inflection point in history where as a collective community, we can band together — UNIFY — and move as one. We need all our people with us and we will stand together in solidarity,” the statement said.
"As an oppressed community we are going on 500-plus years of being systemically targeted, used for our IP/Talent, and also still being killed by the very people that are supposed to 'protect and serve' us. WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH!”
Irving already had said he would not be playing in the resumption of the season. He is still rehabilitating from should surgery. Dwight Howard put out a statement expressing his belief that basketball had to take a backseat to the issues currently being brought into the light. Still, there is a belief that after the 29-1 vote by the Board of Governors approving the NBA’s plan and a 28-0 approval by player representatives last week, the games will go on.
Patrick Beverley of the Los Angeles Clippers tweeted Sunday afternoon, “Hoopers say what y’all want. If [LeBron James] said he hooping. We all hooping. Not Personal only BUSINESS.”
Still, Orlando, where the players will be sequestered, reported 2,581 cases Saturday — nearly double what had been the previous high number — and followed that with 1,758 reported Sunday. And it is not just the number. According to the Orlando Sentinel, of the 21,172 new tests, 8.3 percent were reported as positive, the highest percent positive in a month.
“I think it’d be stupid to not play for two reasons,” Charles Barkley said in an ESPN interview. “Number one, if they don’t play they’ll be out of sight, out of mind for the rest of the year. There won’t be no cameras following. Lebron is probably the most famous athlete in the United States. He won’t be visible anywhere, so out of sight, out of mind. These guys have to realize … they’re going to lose billions of dollars that the players can use to go into their own community to do some great stuff. So it’s not good on any front. I have no idea what Kyrie and Dwight are talking about but it'll be a catastrophic mistake not to play.”