NBA restart looming with player concern rising

On June 4th, 2020 the NBA Board of Governors approved a plan to restart the 2019-20 season with 22 teams returning to play and a tentative start date of Friday, July 31.

The excitement of a plan to return still has an underlying fact that formal agreements on further negotiations must be agreed upon and approved by all parties. The approved plan is to restart the season in Orlando, Florida in a “bubble” hosted at the Walt Disney World Resort Property. Details such as protection, COVID-19 testing, and a plan to allow some non-playoff teams a chance to be the final 16-teams for playoff contention was decided upon after many days of discussion.

NBA Players Association agreement came a day after on June 5th, 2020 but there was an oversight by many in regards to the final sentence of their collective message. 

“The Board of Player Representatives of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) has approved further negotiations with the NBA on a 22-team return to play scenario to restart the 2019-20 NBA season. Various details remain to be negotiated and the acceptance of the scenario would still require that all parties reach agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.”

NBPA Statement

Essentially, this means that plans can still fall through for a restart at the end of July. For example, should the Players Association not feel comfortable in returning or if the league feels it is unsafe for a return due to another spike in COVID-19 cases both parties are vulnerable to ending any plans to resume the season. 

What are the concerns? 

Elderly coaches have been a point of concern, especially with underlying conditions. ESPN’s Jackie MacMulluan shares how Houston Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni feels concerns upon returning. Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey explains, “Mike will be coaching our team,” Morey said. “It would be such a huge disadvantage to lose him. We would never stand for that.” 

Players and coaches are expected to submit medical history as a part of transparency with the league to ensure that their health isn’t compromised. Those with underlying conditions could seek immunity in not relocating to the Orlando bubble for the remainder season. A panel of physicians will review the medical data to determine how safe it is for players and coaches impacted or if extra precautions will be needed for them. 

With health concerns in mind for themselves and family. Players are advocating for the opportunity to not return to action if they chose. As mentioned by Adrian Wojnarowski.

In an all-players conference call on June 12, 2020, players all discussed their concerns on the return to play. With the current state of affairs of racial injustice and COVID-19 concerns, Kyrie Irving led the charge and reportedly is against the return of the season in Orlando. 

Dwight Howard joins Kyrie Irving in support of not returning the rest of the season

“Once we start playing basketball again, the news will turn from systemic racism to who did what in the game last night. It’s a crucial time for us to be able to play and blend that and impact what’s happening in our communities,” one widely respected NBA player told ESPN. “We are asking ourselves, ‘Where and how can we make the biggest impact?’ Mental health is part of the discussion too, and how we handle all of that in a bubble.” – Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski 

While Kyrie is the Vice President of the Players Association there are still players who voiced their opinions to return to the hardwood.

Kyle Kumza via his Twitter @kylekumza
Austin Rivers replying via Instagram comment on Kyrie’s thoughts on the season returning

So are we going to hoop? 

As negotiations continue on the league and players still have over a month until the proposed start date for the rest of the season. Commissioner Adam Silver has retained in being as flexible as possible in respecting player and coach health decisions and salvaging the season. Health and safety should be the primary concern among the current events in America however, with an ignited reform for racial equality in place will some NBA players feel uncomfortable returning to action? 

Not returning to play this season has serious financial implications for players and the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the future. An underlying factor as mentioned in Adrian Wojnaroski’s article explains, there are future impacts on deciding not to resume the rest of this season. 

The NBA has the ability to terminate the collective bargaining agreement that already includes a mutual opt-out in 2022-23. Already, the NBA and NBPA have to negotiate a long list of financial and competitive items to account for the loss of revenue, but agents expect that the league would react to the cancellation of this season by blowing up the CBA, locking out the players and moving to implement a more unfavorable financial share of basketball-related income, which is now essentially a 50-50 split.

– Adrian Wojnarowksi

It might be fair to say that there is an equal split among players per the rumors and current details of how outspoken players are to returning or not returning. While the league may be fully on board from their original vote on June 4th and no retractions it is now on the players collectively finding a middle ground among themselves on agreeing to return at the end of July. 

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Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times Contributor