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Several NBA players test positive for coronavirus as league officially announces return

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA is officially coming back, but concerns about safety continue to grow.

Earlier on Tuesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association officially agreed to terms on a revised Collective Bargaining Agreement that will restart the 2019-20 season. The transaction window, which allows teams to sign or waive players, began at noon.

The plan has been laid out for some time now: the season will restart on July 30 with 22 teams converging down to Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort. An eight-game regular season will precede a traditional 16-team playoff format, although there is the possibility for a play-in round involved. For a more in-depth breakdown of how the NBA intends on incorporating the entire plan, click the link here.

Finishing the 2019-20 season has always been the goal since the season was suspended on March 11. Now that both the league office and the players have come to an agreement, that goal can be achieved. But does it mean the NBA is actually looking down the home stretch?

Also on Tuesday, Wojnarowski reported that at least four players from a Western Conference playoff team tested positive for the coronavirus. Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic reported that two members of the Phoenix Suns, who are outside of the playoff picture but will go to Orlando, also tested positive, which led to the organization shutting down voluntary workouts roughly two weeks before the league meets up in Florida. It was later leaked on Tuesday afternoon that Denver Nuggets superstar center Nikola Jokic also tested positive for COVID-19. His return is now delayed from his home country of Serbia, putting him even further behind the rest of the league that is already operating on a tight schedule. According to Woj, teams are ACTIVELY PREPARING for more positive cases to show up. Now the question is, how many positive cases will prove to be too many? How many positive cases are going to be necessary before the bubble is forced to pop?

Individual franchises won’t start meeting in Orlando until July 7, so there is still time to quarantine players in order to have them ready to go for the July 30 restart. The NBA already has a plan in place for players who are showing symptoms or test positive once everyone is down in Orlando and it has shown an apparent reluctancy to suspend the season once again after just a positive test or two. That being said, if the virus finds a way to infect the bubble, the entire project could crumble down in an instant.

Maybe I’m overthinking things a bit, but hosting an event that will attempt to quarantine over 1,000 people (not including the Disney employees, who are not subject to the same quarantine rules as the members of the NBA restart) in an area where cases are rapidly rising sounds like an ever-increasing risk.

Zach Binney, who is an epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University, told James Herbert of CBS Sports that Florida’s rising number of positive cases is “really, really, worrying” for the NBA and, despite all the protocols already instilled, Binney is “afraid it’s all about to go pear-shaped anyway.”

Until the rate of positive coronavirus cases in Florida begins to go south, it’s hard for me to remain optimistic that everything is going to stay on course. Currently, Orange County (whose county seat is Orlando) is seeing a significant spike in the number of tests that have come back positive. Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday that among the six non-playoff teams also making the trip to Orlando, none of them believe a restart is worth a long-term injury. Will the Phoenix Suns or Washington Wizards even take this as seriously as the league expects? In reality, why should they?

Davis Bertans (Washington Wizards) and Trevor Ariza (Portland Trail Blazers) both will reportedly sit out the restart for different reasons. Bertans is due for a big contract this offseason and sees little incentive in returning to a Wizards team that will likely not make it into the playoffs, while Ariza has elected to spend the time with his children. Neither of these guys bolsters superstar careers, but they aren’t slouches, either, and their absence will affect their respective teams.

I would imagine not everyone within the organization is happy about their decisions, but I also believe teammates and front offices are more understanding considering the circumstances. For instance, I don’t think Bertans is going to miss out on any money this offseason because of his decision to not go on with the restart. He has a legitimate future as a starting-caliber player on a playoff team and he knows it. To risk that over maybe eight games hardly seems worth it. The rest of the league will have until Wednesday, June 24 to decide if they want to return with their team.

I won’t blame any player that declines to return, as long as they have a reasonable claim.

All it takes is for the virus to slip its way into one of the team’s camps down in Orlando. If half of the Los Angeles Lakers test positive right as the restart is set to begin, what happens? Does the league move on without them? Even when you consider the factors of potential injury-risk and the protests against racial injustices springing up across the United States, the coronavirus is still the number one risk for the NBA’s return.

A lot can change from now until July 30.

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Recruiting reporter for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR

6 Comments for Several NBA players test positive for coronavirus as league officially announces return

  1. Southky
    9:11 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    I wonder why there is no follow up story on here about Bubba “Smollett” Wallace and the noose in his garage at Talladega?????

    • ukbradstith
      11:39 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

      I truly love Matt Jones, but he was a little quick on the judgement for those thinking this was probably just a hoax. It’s getting so the media can barely print the truth if it doesn’t fit the narrative.

  2. Lip Man 1
    9:19 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    Zach: It is a risk, a HUGE risk but you can’t legislate against stupidity. If enough guys get sick, or worse, they’ll realize how stupid they’ve been.

  3. Lsdown4ever
    10:32 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    I mean even if they do get the virus, they are all healthy so it shouldn’t do anything severe to them. And if they don’t wanna take the risk then by all means stay home! But in my opinion there comes a point in time where we need to stop living in fear, and get on with our lives! For crying out loud the media is a far worse virus than corona! The only thing they know 100% to be true about this virus is it is called coronavirus! All else is speculation! The media is one of the only ways we get information! That scares me! I personally think it is time to get on with our lives, but If the NBA wants shudder every time someone in good health comes down with the sniffles. By all means, Let em!

  4. Catfan4life-original
    10:35 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    OMG! We are all going to die. Or we’ll find a noose in our respective garages soon. Or someone will smash my Mary statue in me front yard. Or I’ll feel ashamed to have an opinion. That’s it. I’m building a bunker in my back yard. Come within 6 feet and say hello to my little friend!

  5. Bluebloodtoo
    7:44 am June 24, 2020 Permalink

    Make no mistake, this is about income for the league. This is all orchestrated so that tv contracts can start paying out again.