These past couple of weeks have been something like we have never seen in our generation. Cities essentially shutdown, highways empty and life has basically grinded to a halt. There are bigger things that we need to pay attention to during the COVID-19 pandemic, however I am a sports fan just like the writers on this site and all of you that read our content. For the purpose of this article, I’m simply looking at this through a sports fan’s eyes.
It was a couple weeks ago when Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The NBA already had plans in place to start playing games in empty arenas after March 11th, but after Gobert’s positive test there was little choice for the league but to suspend play. Other players have been tested and many know that a handful have tested positive, including Celtics guard Marcus Smart and the Nets Kevin Durant.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver initially said the league was going to be suspended for 30 days and will be re-examined. So now the question is when will the NBA return? Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had multiple interviews with questions around the return of the league. Cuban told Dallas station WFAA, “No one has perfect information right now, so all decisions are tough, but if I had to guess based off the people I’ve talked to at the CDC and other places, I would say that the over-under [for a restart] would be June 1st and I’m taking the under.”
When we finally see live basketball again, there won’t be any fans in attendance, and that’s completely understandable, but all we need is a date to look forward to. When this first started,the general consensus was to follow the steps of the Chinese Basketball Association, which is still waiting to start with a potential May return. Many people and insiders believe a late June early July start would be a more realistic start date, but there are a few things to consider.
First, how long will players need to get back into game shape? LeBron James told SI that many players would need about two weeks of a mini training camp and 5-10 games to get ready for the playoffs. If this happens and the league starts back up in late June, the postseason may start after July 4th. There is discussion that the league wants the finals wrapped up by Labor Day, so the format may have to change. Could the first round be shrunk to a best of 3 or a best of 5?
The next question is could games be played without fans? Easy answer is yes. The summer league was originally played at the Orlando Magic practice facility, so it can be done. Playing games in a practice facility like the Auerbach Center wouldn’t be playing on the TD Garden parquet, but it should feel a little more normal than playing in front of 17,000 empty seats.
Finally, and this is a question that many are forgetting. Do the players want to play ASAP? Trae Young had a 3-point contest with socks, and Steph Curry had a mini golf trick shot contest, but this is all done with players and their families socially distancing themselves. Karl Anthony Towns’ mother is in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator, and his father also tested positive but is recovering well.
There is a general concern in the world about bringing this virus into the home and potentially affecting family members. Basketball is predicated by playing tight defense, and being an inch away from your matchup. Players may be hesitant at first to start playing, so perhaps the league to start back up would require players to leave their families and quarantine together and play on an empty court. I think I can speak for most sports fans when I say we want sports back! However, as has been the case, we need to worry about keeping ourselves safe and eventually life will get back to normal. Until then, be safe.