NBA Coronavirus Outbreak: Players Not Fully Invested In League’s Season Return
NBA won’t require players to participate in Orlando
Along with the optimism that basketball will again become available for fans, there is a growing concern surrounding its players. ESPN Senior Insider Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that a group of players are worried about the possibility of contracting the coronavirus, prompting them to appeal for no punishment in case they deem it necessary to just stay at home.
The all-in-one basketball bonanza that will take place at the Disney World Resort in Orlando will include not just the players, but also coaches and staff, respective families, and of course the media.
“Executives and coaches around the NBA have had significant concern about how players will adapt to an environment unlike any they've ever experienced and how those hurdles could impact the sustained competitive drive for teams. Many have worried, too, especially on teams that aren't title contenders, if some players will start to seek avenues to bypass the resumption altogether.
Players are citing a number of concerns, including family situations, the inability to leave the Disney World Resort campus, the coronavirus pandemic and the implications surrounding the emergence of social justice causes in the country, sources said. Participants in Orlando -- including players -- will not be allowed to leave the bubble environment without a 10-day quarantine upon their return to the Disney grounds, sources said.”
With all the health and social issues surrounding the country, it is very understandable that it’s not the players’ priority to play basketball. There is no denying that the game has a unifying factor that binds not just the basketball community. We are getting more and more accustomed to NBA players like Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James speaking up on even the most sensitive social issue there is. The “We Don’t Just Shut Up and Dribble” tag has been solidified by the league, and all other sports as well.
Having said that, Wojnarowski also emphasized that it is highly expected that the league will agree to this appeal. The National Basketball Players Association, which is headed by Oklahoma City Thunder veteran star point guard Chris Paul, is already on the process of agreeing with the league as to coming up with a plan that would give players the permission not to go to the Orlando complex.
Players won’t be suspended if they don’t participate in the games, but Wojnarowski reiterated that they will not be paid for the missed games. It is also being reported that teams will be allowed to bring in replacements in the case of rosters with non-participating players.
“Players deciding against the Orlando resumption would not be paid for missed games, sources said. The league started withholding 25% of players' paychecks on June 15 because of the force majeure provision in the collective bargaining agreement that will repay teams for canceled games.
Players who decide against participating in Orlando could be replaced by a substitution player, sources told ESPN. The NBA plans to allow replacements for players who test positive for the coronavirus or suffer injuries, sources said. Those players who are replaced become ineligible for the rest of the 2019-20 season, sources said.”
It remains to be seen how the NBA will be imposing limitations on the allowed replacement players, but it is being speculated that only those included in training camp rosters and current G League line-ups will be allowed to be signed by the contending teams.
Rockets won’t allow league to ban D’Antoni from coaching in season return
In a statement released by NBA commissioner Adam Silver a week ago, he hinted that there is a possibility that older coaches will not be allowed on the sidelines once the league resumes at Orlando. Silver cited concerns that these older coaches are more vulnerable to the virus, thus the precaution that the league is planning to take.
However, there is still no solid evidence that older people or those with pre-existing medical conditions are indeed more inclined to contracting the virus. Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, one of the oldest current coaches we have in the league, emphasized that a zero risk is not possible in any situation these days. As per a column written by Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, the 69-year old basketball tactician also reiterated that Silver has since backtracked from the hint that he made earlier.
"I guess they were thinking it could affect us a little bit more because of our age, but we would catch it at the same rate as any player would. If it's not safe for us, then it's not safe for them.
I know the NBA is going to make it as safe as possible for everyone involved. But there's no such thing as zero risk. I'm not worried about it because I don't think [preventing older coaches from interacting with their players on the bench] will happen. I know Adam talked about that on TNT, but since then he's walked it back pretty quick. I think he got a little ahead of himself."
Aside from D’Antoni, there are also other NBA coaches who are above 60 years old. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is the oldest at 71, and New Orleans Pelicans head strategist Alvin Gentry is 65 years of age. Both the Spurs and the Pelicans are also part of the 22 teams invited for the season resumption.
With that said, the Rockets management are one with their stand of being behind D’Antoni on this matter. They failed to come up with a contract extension last summer, prompting rumors that this could be D’Antoni’s last stint with the Rockets. But with James Harden and Russell Westbrook spearheading the squad, they still have a strong chance to compete for the championship.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressed his remorse on this possibility, saying that D’Antoni’s absence will be a “huge disadvantage” for the 6th-seeded team in the Western Conference.
"Mike will be coaching our team. It would be such a huge disadvantage to lose him. We would never stand for that.
In fairness to the league, they set up a process whereby everyone will have to submit a medical record. I'm sure the doctors told them that some people over a certain age shouldn't go. But Mike is in great health. He's in better shape than some 40-year-old coaches we have. Besides, I think his dad lived to be 108 or something."
The Rockets, who just pulled off a blockbuster trade that landed them Westbrook last summer, are currently sporting a record of 40 wins against 24 defeats. If the regular season ends now and the playoffs push through, they will be going up against All-Star Nikola Jokic and the 3rd-ranked Denver Nuggets in the first round of the postseason.