Everyone wants to see the NBA start back up as soon as it possibly can. The league has been on hiatus since March 11, when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, and in the weeks since, the conversations among basketball fans have revolved around exactly when the 2019-20 season will start back up.
The issue, of course, is that a pandemic does not particularly care about whether or not basketball games get played, and until it is safe, the risk that comes with holding games — with or without fans — is quite high. It’s why the concept of a centralized location to play games has been floated, but even then, there needs to be enough testing and preventative measures in place to keep everyone safe.
With all that said, a path forward could look a bit tricky, and as Brian Windhorst of ESPN laid out on Friday, that reality is setting in a bit. Windhorst reports that the league and the Player’s Association have had conversations in recent days that have led to serious pessimism about restarting this campaign.
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“The talks between the player’s union and the league this week, I’ve talked to both sides of this issue,” Windhorst said. “And it is clear that the NBA is angling to set up a deal that enables them to shut the season down. Now, they don’t have to do that yet, and the way they’re negotiating, they’re leaving themselves an option either way. But they are not having talks about how to restart the league, they are having financial talks about what would happen if the season shuts down, and I think there’s a significant amount of pessimism right now.”
One of the major things influencing this, Windhorst reports, is how the Chinese Basketball Association has struggled to get its restart off the ground, in part due to the way asymptomatic carriers can spread the novel coronavirus. Further complicating matters is that pushing this season back too far could end up hurting the 2020-21 campaign as well.
“There comes a point where you go too far, where you start to look at damaging two seasons, and that is what the NBA is trying to evaluate,” Windhorst said. “They do have runway here, I do think that they could, if they had to, go into August or September to finish this season, but I’m not sure they feel confident about that right now. And a big factor is testing, we just don’t have the testing.”
Ideally what Windhorst is saying is a worst-case scenario that never comes to fruition. Still, with how much uncertainty there is about, well, everything, it seems safe to say that the league and the NBPA are facing an uphill battle right now to get this season back underway.