The NBA Season Comeback and Its Battle with Coronavirus
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the world’s first true pandemic in a century. Amidst the pandemic, industries are looking for ways to open up, perform their service, and save their bottom line. One of these enterprises is the NBA, one of the biggest sports leagues on the planet. Here are some of the things you need to know about the NBA's pending comeback and their ongoing battle with keeping players and their families safe from the devastating disease.
The Pre-Suspension NBA Allstars
Before we had ever heard the words "coronavirus" or "COVID", the Milwaukee Bucks stood out over the rest of the NBA. With three-fourths of the season completed, the Bucks were steamrolling the competition with the league’s best defense, an armada of competent role players, and the defending MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. They have the NBA’s best record at 53-12, standing out with one of the best point differentials in league history! They were considered as the odds-on favorites to win the 2020 championship. Then the suspension happened.
COVID-19 and the NBA Suspension
With the COVID-19 pandemic at full steam, the NBA was then planning contingencies such as temporarily playing games at empty arenas and employing more stringent health standards to avoid infection of this dreaded virus. All those plans went to the back burner when it was announced that Utah Jazz’s 2 all-stars, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, tested positive for the coronavirus. Since that pair of positive tests, the NBA had no choice but to suspend the whole season while they navigated this very unchartered territory, and worked with experts to determine a way to get the season up and running again, safely.
While Mitchell and Gobert both eventually recovered without any complications, the coming weeks brought forth more positive COVID-19 tests in players, coaches, and other team staff. Further complicating matters was the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases in the United States. With little to no signs of the rate of infections slowing down, there was real doubt if the NBA season will end up getting canceled all together.
The Master Plan for the NBA Restart
In spite of the uncertainty brought about by the suspension of the season, there is still strong clamor for the season to restart sooner or later. In spite of the uncertainties, a majority of the players are willing to work with the league to create a contingency plan to allow for the resumption of the NBA season. To address this, multiple meetings between the league and the players’ association were made.
On June 5, 2020, after a 29-1 vote, the NBA board of governors decided that the 2019-2020 NBA season will continue on July 31 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. 22 teams would be participating in the restart, which includes the top 8 seeds from each of the conferences. The additional 6 teams included are those who still have a mathematical chance of making it to the top 8 of their respective conferences.
Each team would be playing 8 games to close out the regular season to determine final playoff seeding, then the 16 teams who qualified will participate in the playoffs, with the traditional 7-7-7-7 playoff format to be used. An additional wrinkle that might be incorporated in future NBA seasons was institutionalized for this season: the play-in game. If the 8th and 9th seed teams are separated by only 4 games or less, the 2 teams will play in a play-in tournament.
Aside from how the regular season would be finished, the board also formulated safety protocols that would be used by the league while its team members are inside the “bubble” of Orlando. All team personnel will be housed in the Walt Disney Resort, with no one allowed to share rooms with each other. Multiple recreational activities such as golf will be put into place, but social distancing measures should be practiced. COVID-19 testing would be done on a daily basis for all members of the team on a daily basis, and a quarantine/treatment system is in place should someone becomes positive in the middle of the tournament.
Things That Can Complicate the NBA’s Comeback
There are multiple factors that are seen that can potentially complicate the NBA’s comeback plan. These factors have placed additional concerns on an impending restart, if not create an impetus to cancel the proceedings altogether.
First of these concerns is the thought of players and other personnel contracting the coronavirus themselves. Multiple players, as well as coaches and other important team personnel, have tested positive for COVID-19. The thought of a scenario of someone from the NBA getting severely ill is enough to put fear in the minds of everyone. As of now, there are multiple players who said they will withdraw from the restart, citing fear for the safety of themselves and their families, as well as for other reasons such as precaution from injuries.
Another issue that has put a wrinkle in a potential restart scenario is the recent racially-charged turmoil in the USA. The death of George Floyd due to alleged police brutality has the African American community up in arms. Many players actively participate in these demonstrations, with some considering sitting out the restart to push for the “Black Lives Matter” campaign. Other players even want the league to cancel the season to focus on resolving these social issues.
Last but not least, there is the issue of the teams being inside the Walt Disney bubble for 2-3 months, depending on how their team would progress in the playoffs. While in the bubble, the players and team personnel will be away from their families for extended periods of time. This has made some players decide to withdraw from the restart, especially those who are taking care of vulnerable family members such as sick children.
In spite of the myriad of concerns regarding the restart of the 2019-2020 NBA season, the league is in full force towards continuing this lost season…for now. Given the unique circumstances, it can be said that whichever team to come out victorious from this season will definitely have to earn it, without any asterisks involved. In the midst of unprecedented global issues, a successful restart for the NBA will be nothing less than historic.