The desire of NBA players to get back to games has been heard in leaks from confidential polling of the rank and file and from a conference call among some of the game’s biggest stars.
Chris Paul organized the phone call and, as president of the National Basketball Players Association, he headed up the informal poll. He went public with his thoughts Friday, appearing on ESPN’s “The Jump” and declaring that he — and the other players — want to play.
“A lot of hard conversations that have to be made, a lot of hard decisions,” he said. “But with the team around us, I think ultimately we’ll get to where we want to.
“Obviously, we want to play. Oh, man, we want to play. We want to play bad, too. I think that’s a consensus for the guys around the league. We want it to be, obviously, as safe as possible. But the biggest thing is we miss the game.”
Paul, 35, who was having a resurgent season in leading the Oklahoma City Thunder, acknowledged the reality that the NBA must go through many steps to get back to games.
The season was suspended on March 12, the day after Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Practice facilities have reopened in most cities, with players forced to adhere to stringent safety protocols.
Lakers forward Jared Dudley said Thursday in a radio interview that he believes a training camp could begin in June, with the season resuming in mid-July.
In a conference call with players a week ago, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told players that if a positive test would mean shutting down the season, it didn’t make sense to even start up. But players overwhelmingly want to play, with the risk that a player testing positive will be lost for 14 days in quarantine while the team plays on.
“I don’t have the answers,” Paul said. “I don’t have all the answers. But I know that people are working tirelessly, trying to figure it out.”
Paul joked that he understands the desire of fans to have games again, noting that he recently spent a day watching the cornhole championships. He said that while players want to play, they have questions about the many aspects of safety that would have to be navigated as well as the format that the resumption of the season would take — most likely with games being played in one or two locations.
“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things,” he said. “But at the end of the day, right now, no one expected this and knew that this was coming.
“So what is normal now? Right? So I think that’s what we’re trying to figure out is what it looks like, and until we find those answers and we can come up with an actual plan, right now it’s basically sit and wait, sort of. The virus is in control.”