COVID-19 threw a wrench into professional sports leagues’ 2020 plans. But in the NBA, players are just doing what they can to make the best of a crummy situation.
The NBA has largely led the charge among pro sports leagues during the pandemic, becoming the first to suspend its season March 11 after Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. Since then, nearly every single pro sports league in the nation shut its doors for a period of time, though some are slowly beginning to resume play.
The NBA currently is eyeing its own return to play, with seeding games reportedly scheduled to begin around July 30 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. The resumption of the season likely will include regular testing, though players aren’t too fond of the typical nasal swab tests.
But as NBA Players Association executive director Michele Roberts points out, the coronavirus is going to have a lasting impact on how the league and its players approach basketball for quite some time. In fact, it’s likely only a matter of time until a player tests positive.
“Of course (the players) understand it could be a positive test and they want to know what the protocol is,” Roberts told The Boston Globe this past week. “No one is saying, ‘Suppose a player tests positive?’ We’re beyond that. The question now is, ‘When a player tests positive, what are we going to do?’
“… That’s the only realistic mindset you can have going into this. A player is going to test positive. It’s not any more of this ‘if,’ it’s ‘when’ and what can I do to mitigate against the ‘when.’ When it happens, if I’m not successful, what treatment is available to me, what are my chances of being really, really sick, and how are you detecting the presence of an infection?”
The virus doesn’t appear to be deterring many players from returning to the court. That said, player and staff safety will remain one of the league’s biggest concerns moving forward.
“I don’t believe any player would say this was forced upon them, it’s not,” Roberts said. “Not a single player has to play. This is not involuntary servitude. I don’t have to work. They don’t have to work. But it’s of course a mitigation of risk with the players. On this health and safety protocol, I’m satisfied that it can’t be any better than this. But I’m candid that it’s not bulletproof.
“… It’s a tough decision because it’s about people’s health,” Roberts said. “Having said that, this is at least the new normal for a while. If it’s another 18 months before a vaccine and we’re going to have to figure out a way to manage through it.”