After Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with the Coronavirus, the NBA was forced to take drastic measures. But what now?
NBA fans around the world were in a complete state of shock last night as it was revealed that the league would be suspending the season until further notice. Earlier in the day, the NBA had a meeting to discuss preventative measures that could ultimately help stop the spread of Coronavirus. At first, it looked like they would continue the season as planned but without fans in the stands. This all changed when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was diagnosed with COVID-19, days after purposely touching a bunch of microphones as a way to demonstrate his dismissal of the severity of the virus. What made matters worse is that today, Gobert's teammate Donovan Mitchell also tested positive for the Coronavirus.
As a result of last night's events, numerous teams throughout the league have begun to self-quarantine. This process will last 14 days, which is significant as the league plans on suspending the season for at least 30 days. However, beyond the next month, the NBA doesn't have much of a plan and they will have some massive decisions to make. This ultimately raises the question: What should the NBA do?
Well, it's a complicated question to answer because lives are stake. This is truly a matter of life and death, even if you think the virus isn't that big of a deal. While young people are at less risk of dying from the virus, older people and those with weakened immune systems can suffer the worst consequences. As of right now, there are over 133,000 Coronavirus cases and 4,947 people have died. These numbers demonstrate how the NBA did the right thing by suspending the season. While this may be true, the numbers also show that the NBA needs to exercise caution before moving forward. Simply put, they can't be reckless.
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History dictates that the NBA will make the right decision but they've never had to endure something so dire. A decision shouldn't be made today and it certainly shouldn't be made tomorrow. If the NBA wants to ensure the health and safety of both players and fans, they will need to wait on the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization to make official recommendations. This process could very well take weeks or months but at the end of the day, the NBA and other leagues need to do what is best for everyone's safety. Having said all of that, it doesn't hurt to anticipate what could become of the season when things do go back to normal.
For instance, let's look at the Chinese Basketball Association. When the outbreak first started back in January, the league suspended play and it has yet to resume. The CBA plans to have all teams back on the court in April which means their shutdown will have lasted 10 weeks. If the NBA were to take the same approach, they would be out of commission until May. This means the playoffs would run all the way until August. While the idea of basketball in August seems nice on the surface, it would push the start of the following season back, significantly. This could create a logistical nightmare for the league and its players, who deserve a nice little break after the postseason. Not to mention, many of the league's talented stars plan on playing in the Summer Olympics, which would ideally take place in August.
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These factors create a difficult scenario for the league. If the NBA were to realistically continue on with the season without any scheduling disasters in the late summer, they should consider ending the regular season today and making it so the playoffs begin as soon as the league starts back up. Fans of bubble playoff teams like the Portland Trail Blazers probably hate me right now and listen, I definitely feel your pain. However, every team has played over 60 games which means more than 75% of the season has been completed. There have been lockout years with fewer games. This just goes to show that the teams that deserve playoff spots are already there. Starting the postseason immediately after the hiatus ultimately poses some financial problems as it means fewer games, fewer TV placements, and fewer profits. Considering the nature of the nature of the situation, it's safe to say profits should be the last thing on the league's mind.
The league also has to decide whether or not they will play with fans when the league returns. This was the plan from the beginning and if this public health crisis continues, then empty stadiums will have to be the norm. The playoffs would be especially rough in this scenario and it's something all parties may have to get used. Regardless, this is all speculative but it's important to think about. The NBA is an institution and when they're not operating, people feel it. If the league wants to make its players feel good about returning to action, they'll need to take the proper steps to ensure everyone is going to be okay, moving forward. As for the fans, we're going to have to hang tight and trust the NBA will make the right choice.