Each day during the sports pause stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, NESN.com will publish a diary full of random thoughts, opinions, takeaways, and other cool tidbits we’ve stumbled across in the absence of actual games. Because why not? We’re all in this together.
Ever since protests started popping up throughout the country, with our nation expressing outrage and taking a stand against racism and police brutality, it seems no one is talking about the coronavirus anymore, which brought the sports world to a screeching halt back in March.
And as the NBA plans its return for July 30, ironing out the full schedule for the resumed season, some players are starting to express their concerns about bunking up at Walt Disney World to bring basketball back.
But again, it seems like it has less to do with the pandemic, and more to do with the Black Lives Matter movement that NBA players are increasingly getting more involved with.
One respected NBA player tells me: “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 to impact what’s happening in our communities.”
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 12, 2020
Of course, COVID-19 still is a concern some have, but so is the idea of players having to separate from their families who initially won’t be allowed into the bubble. And the fact that athletes aren’t permitted to leave once they’re there. And the risk of injury given all the rust from not playing. And the financials around it all. And probably a hundred other things.
But to hear about how uncomfortable some players are with participating comes as a bit of a surprise after the National Basketball Players’ Association voted to agree to the league’s structure for restarting the season last week.
Especially considering Kyrie Irving apparently is the “driving force” behind some players expressing the unease they feel.
Irving is among one of the NBPA’s six elected vice presidents, who actively have been engaged in discussions with the league and commissioner Adam Silver to negotiate a plan. But given the unrest our country currently faces, perhaps some mentalities on returning to play have changed.
I mean, it does seem a little tone-deaf to isolate a bunch of black players to entertain the world and lessen the NBA’s financial burden considering everything going on in the world right now when you step back and think about it.
Still, the ramifications of canceling the rest of the season are huge, and we’d see it effect the CBA, free agency and players who aren’t making Kyrie money significantly.
But if any players were upset that they didn’t get to participate in the vote to resume the season, Irving reportedly gave them a platform to discuss it on a call with about 80 of their peers. And stars like Donovan Mitchell, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard reportedly talked about the possibility of sitting out.
Amid his reservations on restarting season, Kyrie Irving has lent a strong voice to ongoing call w/ NBA players tonight. One player in text: "He's trying to give players a platform to be able to have a discussion — on the bubble, racial equality and unity…It's a good call."
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 13, 2020
Sources: Kyrie Irving led a call of 80-plus NBA players, including Chris Paul/Kevin Durant/Carmelo Anthony/Donovan Mitchell, and Irving and several players spoke up about not supporting resumed season due to nationwide unrest from social injustice/racism.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 13, 2020
And though Irving is recovering from shoulder surgery that will keep him from playing again this season, you can imagine he’d sit out if he were healthy, as he reportedly doesn’t support the league’s return in Orlando.
We’ll see how it all plays out, but one thing’s for sure: the NBA has a lot more questions to answer now.
Here are a few other storylines that emerged on Friday:
— The NHL reportedly took a big step closer to its return, as part of the 24-team playoff format is rumored to take place in Las Vegas. Hockey in the desert in the middle of the summer? What a world. We’ll see what city emerges as the second hub to host the return.
— Meanwhile, Major League Baseball, which we all thought would be the first major American sports league back, still is playing tug-of-war with its players regarding an economic plan. The league’s latest proposal reportedly calls for a 72-game season, and the MLBPA has until Sunday to respond.
— New England Patriots running back Sony Michel reportedly underwent surgery on his foot in May, leaving his status for the start of training camp in July up in the air.
— A member of the Boston Bruins tested positive for COVID-19, but was asymptomatic and since has been cleared. General manager Don Sweeney spoke to the media following the announcement about the teams protocols around testing and training going forward.
— Antonio Brown won’t face any jail time after a January incident with a moving truck driver found the NFL free agent charged for felony burglary conveyance, misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor criminal mischief. We’ll see if it improves his chances of making a roster this season. He may have hinted at signing with a team soon on Instagram.
— The MLB Draft concluded Thursday night, so here are highlights of the Boston Red Sox’s four selections made.
Tweet of the Day
Chris Paul, the president of the NBPA, was a huge factor in the NBA and Players Association reaching agreements on how to restart the season. Will Irving unravel all that work? Who knows. But it’s funny to think about the drama that would play out.
Y’all think Chris Paul got banished to OKC to not see all $35 mil he is owed this season? Y’all are crazy, he will box with Kyrie tonight if he has to
— 500 ? (@Kameron_Hay) June 12, 2020
Stat of the Day
Let’s take it back to 2008, the most recent time the Boston Celtics won the NBA title.
On this day in 2008 the Celtics didn't give up and came back from 24-point deficit to win Game 4 of the finals against the Lakers in Los Angeles. pic.twitter.com/yu2MtQVedL
— Tomek Kordylewski (@Timi_093) June 12, 2020
Video of the Day
Watch this. You’ll be better for it. (Warning, there is some language in here that is NSFW. Obviously, I mean, it’s Dave Chapelle).