It’s fitting that the NBA is planning for their return to action to take place at a theme park.
With the ups and downs, twists and turns, and general uncertainty about what direction the final plan will take–if it takes hold at all–the process of bringing the NBA back feels more like a roller coaster that you’d find at Disney World than a steady plan with a clear course of actually going off without a hitch at the Wide World of Sports compound that rests within its walls.
Sure, the league’s board of governors approved a 22-team format and the NBA’s player union representatives approved that format and to continue negotiating the other details that would make up the rest of the return.1That last part isn’t being mentioned enough, but I digress. But, that’s really all that’s happened. Since then, it seems progress has plateaued rather than continued forward.
Well, actually, that’s not entirely fair. On the medical side, the NBA has said that the team reps and players who travel to Orlando will be tested for COVID-19 on a daily basis once in Orlando and every other day in the week leading up to when teams depart. Considering the number of players and team staffers who will be in Orlando, you’re talking thousands upon thousands of tests over the course of the months that it will take to complete the 88 “seeding” games that will determine playoff slotting and the entire postseason that follows.
Beyond that, though, we know little. And we know little because the players haven’t agreed to anything and, I assume, the league isn’t showing its full hand in regards to hard details because that will only serve to give all of us more things to kick the tires on (and find holes in), not to mention give the impression they might be trying to negotiate in public in order to pressure the players into agreeing to come back. All of which could jeopardize the entire return before it actually gets started.
What we also know is that the players are already having more thorough conversations about what they’d want from a return and the obstacles and issues at hand which could sway them against committing to agreeing to a deal with the league to come back.
Be it concerns around “restriction of movement” related to the bubble (no ins and outs without a quarantine period upon your return), the potential for varying levels of accommodations for the different teams (is my hotel not as nice as yours?), what meals or other perks or on or off the table, or the very real issues surrounding the current state of the country regarding the value of Black Lives, racial and social equality, and how NBA players see themselves as best being able to continue to effect change in this country through their visibility and resources (more on this in a different post; it deserves more room to breathe than a paragraph or two).
Do I think the NBA’s return is in jeopardy? Yes and no. The money at stake for all parties feels too important to the present and future of the league for either side to not put their best foot forward and come to an agreement to return. That said, bigger things have been sunk by smaller issues than some of the ones that are staring the league and the players in the face right now.
If nothing else, then, I expect this road to remain unsettled and rocky for a little while longer. Looks like we’re not getting off the roller coaster quite yet.