Prior to the season, the NBA acknowledged in its own health and safety memo that there were going to be COVID-19 cases. “It is likely that some staff, players, and other participants in the 2020-21 season nonetheless will test positive or contract COVID-19,” the memo stated. “Particularly as the virus remains prevalent in particular team markets and surrounding communities.”
The coronavirus has indeed remained prevalent across the country, and as a result the positive COVID-19 cases — and related quarantines due to close contacts — are starting to mount. But despite the various issues, which include Sunday’s game between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics being postponed, the league has no plans at this time to suspend the season, according to a report ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
“We anticipated that there would be game postponements this season and planned the schedule accordingly,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN in a statement. “There are no plans to pause the season, and we will continue to be guided by our medical experts and health and safety protocols.”
Some team executives have privately raised concerns in the turbulent past several days, but commissioner Adam Silver has remained committed to pushing through games with a minimum of eight available players per team and trying to complete as much of the schedule as possible prior to widescale access to vaccinations that could start to bring normalcy back to the league and country.
So far this season there’s been a number of stars who have had to miss games due to COVID-19 related circumstances, including James Harden, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Bradley Beal. Dozens more have had to sit out or enter quarantine for varying lengths of time due to contact tracing procedures.
This week, in particular, things got especially bad. Beyond the Celtics-Heat game that was postponed, the Philadelphia 76ers had to suit up an injured player — Mike Scott — in order to have enough eligible players to go ahead with their matchup against the Denver Nuggets.
The league will point to the fact that only two games this season have been rescheduled, but the rising number of cases and the subsequent fall out is having a major impact on all fronts: competitiveness, injuries, logistics and even team camaraderie.
“They tell us it’ll be better later in the season, but I just hope this doesn’t break the league in the next few weeks,” one general manager told ESPN.
So far the league has managed to avoid any major outbreak within a team or teams, and barring that it appears they are determined to forge ahead, side effects be damned.