The NBA took proactive measures to protect its players amid the coronavirus outbreak by being one of the first professional/collegiate sports leagues to suspend operations.
Now they’ve taken a step to be one of the first to return to action.
On Monday, April 27th, the NBA announced that they are planning to modify its guidelines regarding the use of team practice facilities and player training. This decision came as states and governments across the country are relaxing their “stay at home” guidelines beginning the first of May. Because of this, the NBA informed teams that they’re targeting May 8th as a potential day for players to return to using their team’s practice facility.
While it’s great to see that the NBA is making strides toward a potential return, there’s an elephant in the room that must be acknowledged.
Quite frankly, there are several elephants.
And they surround questions that many NBA fans (and probably players and coaches) are pondering. The first one is pretty obvious.
How will it look?
But wait, there’s more.
Where there be a full season still? Will the playoffs begin immediately? Can fans come to the games? What will crowd attendance initially look like? Will there be a sold-out arena? Should teams create a way to allow fan attendance, but create social distancing?
These are questions that many are pondering with every news update and breaking story.
And rightfully so.
The current pandemic has created unforeseen scenarios not only within the confines of the NBA but within sports leagues across the world. Social distancing is one of those unforeseen scenarios. It will likely become the new norm across the world for a long period of time, if not just the new norm in general. Knowing that, think about arena/stadium seating.
It’s side by side.
One thought I had myself was limiting tickets to a max of a pair of four, with a gap of seats between each pair. To create that social distancing gap, each team would have certain seats not even available for purchase. Seats that are purchased could be scattered across each stadium and arena, creating a gap of more than six feet. The idea is rough and needs some fine-tuning. It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.
There are still unanswered questions regarding the coronavirus, and how to cure or prevent its spread. The safety of the players was the reason the league suspended this current season, to begin with. While doors are slowly opening back up, will players jump at the chance to return to work; knowing that they are at risk of catching this virus? There are also the coaches to think about.
Greg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, is 71 years old. He’s at a higher risk of catching coronavirus than the players he coaches. Along with that, the mortality rate of people his age is not favorable once they catch the virus. Would Coach Pop be willing to return to the sidelines soon with this knowledge? I suspect not.
When I wrote my piece on whether Arizona was the answer for the MLB or not, I wrote that not trying anything is the wrong answer. After much thought though, there is a wrong answer. That wrong answer is playing the game without fans in attendance. In my opinion, the NBA thrives off fan attendance and participation more than any professional sports league, with soccer being the exception. It’s why LeBron James initially rebuffed the idea of playing games without fans. He knows that fan participation has contributed to the globalization of a league he’s the face of.
Regardless of the semantics of how the NBA will look when it does return, the only thing that’s for sure is the appreciation level will indeed rise. Fans are clamoring for their basketball to return, and they don’t care how it comes back.
They just hope that it can return soon.