The NBA remains in limbo as it mulls a return to play

JAIME C. HARRIS | 5/28/2020, 12:13 a.m.
It’s getting late. Perhaps too late for a reasonable return of the NBA for the 2019-20 season, which halted its ...
NBA Players' Association executive director Michelle Roberts Bill Moor photo

It’s getting late. Perhaps too late for a reasonable return of the NBA for the 2019-20 season, which halted its schedule with a statement on March 11 informing: “The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of [tonight’s] schedule of games until further notice,” read the press release. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The next steps are still being discussed and debated among league executives, players and owners, as the NBA remains in a holding pattern. It has already postponed the annual Draft Lottery and Draft Combine. Both events were scheduled to be held in Chicago on May 19 and May 21 to May 24 respectively. The NBA Draft is scheduled for June 25 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. No official decision has been made on whether it will also be delayed, which is likely.

In an interview with CNN two weeks after the NBA announced the coronavirus had necessitated a stoppage, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has become a widely followed figure and arguably this country’s most trusted voice on matters relating to the coronavirus, ominously warned, “You’ve got to be realistic.”

As many states have begun to restart their economies by allowing certain sectors to resume activities under specific guidelines, the coronavirus still dictates the terms of the expansiveness with which activities can operate.

“And you’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline,” elaborated Fauci. “So you’ve got to respond in what you see happen. And if you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn’t matter what you say. One week, two weeks, three weeks—you’ve got to go with what the situation on the ground is.”

As the calendar moves deeper into spring, the players become further removed from being near a level of their physical peak. Despite being world class athletes, one would expect a disparate degree of players’ general conditioning and readiness to perform at a representative semblance of their pre-pandemic standing.

Thus, regardless of how players, coaches and owners spin it, overall, teams would naturally be a notch or two below what they were in March. A scenario that could skew and diminish the eventual outcome of an abbreviated season is lesser teams contending for a playoff spot, as teams a tier below the top championship contenders such as the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers may fortuitously close a once demonstrable gap, authoring upsets that would no doubt be attributed to the schedule interruption.

Nevertheless, Michelle Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, expressed to ESPN that most players are ready to get back to action. “It’s time. It’s time,” said Roberts according to the ESPN report.

She asserted the union does not have to carry out a vote to come to a formal consensus on the players return.

“If we thought we needed a vote, we would. If we’re ratifying a CBA [collective bargaining agreement], we need a vote,” she said. “But our preferred method is talking to people or just having them talk to us. Then if we get a sense of what the sentiment is, then we can move forward. We talk to our players and figure it out.”