It’s no secret. In order to safely finish out the current 2019-20 NBA campaign, the league needs approximately 15,000 coronavirus tests for players, coaches and essential staff, even less if the league decides to go straight into the playoffs, cutting down the number of tests needed in half.
The NBA has the funding and several manufacturers have stated that they would be able to provide all 15,000 tests if the league needed them, but NBA commissioner Adam Silver, owners and the rest of the league’s officials are afraid of the public backlash they would receive due to a shortage of tests across the country.
In other words, the NBA could resume its season tomorrow with a 25-day return to basketball window if it really wanted to. But the question that looms is this: Would Silver be willing to face a public relations nightmare in an effort to potentially pave the way for businesses nationwide?
“They’re spending a lot of time getting a back-to-basketball plan ready,” said ESPN’s Brian Windhorst last month. “They hope they get to use it. Talking to executives and trainers around the league, what they’re looking at is a 25-day return to basketball window. Hopefully at some point they can enact it. An 11-day series of individual workouts where there’d be social distancing for a period of time, and then hopefully if the clearance comes that they can play five-on-five basketball – a 14-day training camp. As you hope for the country to heal and the virus to get better, look for at least about a three-and-a-half to four week return date before you’d ever get back to games.”
That means the rest of the regular season would be able to get underway at the end of May, playoffs would begin at the end of June, and we would likely be seeing LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers face off against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks come late August.
Combine weekly testing with a “bubble” host location that the league already seems leaning towards, and a safe resumption of the 2019-20 season seems entirely plausible. Across the NBA, an overwhelming majority of high-level officials, players and owners are on board with a return.
While Las Vegas had been the ideal spot to host an NBA restart, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. has been gaining momentum. That’s because there are already facilities, hotels and restaurants in place for a quarantined basketball ecosystem.
If players and associated staff agree to be isolated from friends and family for a three-month period, then why not?
Medical experts and professionals nationwide have already agreed that in order to safely resume daily work life and activities, the first step would be to provide testing to anybody and everybody that needs it across the country. That’s over 328 million tests nationwide.
Would 15,000 tests that are privately funded to resume an already-labeled “essential service” in some states really impact the public health crisis that’s happening today? Or would it boost the economy, morale and give millions across the globe finally something to cheer about?
Even President Donald Trump has stated himself over and over again that he wants sports back for both economic and morale-boosting reasons. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, has suggested that sports could resume with weekly testing of athletes under close watch.
So why not? Why not give it a shot? The NBA was essentially the pioneer that spearheaded quarantining and shutdowns across the U.S. after it ceased all operations on March 11 when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Several cities, states and sports leagues followed suit almost immediately afterward.
So why not spearhead a resumption of the economy? Why not give the country some hope during an unprecedented time? Sure, the NBA will likely take some heat, but what transcendent decision in the past hasn’t?
If the NBA cancels its season, there will be backlash. If the NBA resumes its season, there will also be backlash. If the league started the domino effect of shutdowns nationwide, why couldn’t it start the domino effect of startups nationwide?
At worst, the experiment would fail and the league would immediately be shut down for the remainder of the year. But aside from South Korea resuming its baseball season without fans, what other major sports league has stepped forward to take an unprecedented gamble that could pay huge dividends for an entire country, literally.
Since we’re hypothesizing here, what if the rest of the season were cancelled and the league decided to hold off until the 2020-21 season. Without a widely available vaccine, would we even be able to “safely” begin the 2020-21 season without the same roadblocks?
At some point, if the country wants to open its doors again, somebody has to step forward and take a chance. Do we let the virus dictate our lives? Or do we put our livelihood before the virus?
Hear me out. At worst, the NBA could enact a round-robin style playoff format across three weeks, with a best-of-three series for the conference finals and NBA Finals. This would severely cut the number of tests needed, and the league would be able to crown a champion as quickly as possible.
Let’s say that the NBA returned on June 1. After a 25-day minicamp, the NBA could finish the first round of the postseason in a day on June 26 in the proposed single-elimination format, and then the second round on June 29.
A bubble host location would still be necessary, but if each team needed around 35 tests for essential personnel including players on site for 16 teams, that would only mandate 1,680 tests.
If the league is really adamant about crowning a champion, there’s no reason that a scenario like this couldn’t be enacted. The conference finals would get underway on July 2 and end on July 8, then the finals would begin on July 12, and champion could be crowned by Saturday, July 18.