There are still a ton of decisions the NBA needs to make before it can resume its season, but yesterday’s conference call between owners, executives, and the league office apparently left all parties optimistic that the league will be back this year despite all of the uncertainty.
One dealbreaker for commissioner Adam Silver is how the league will respond if — and honestly, when — another player tests positive. He told those on the call that if one positive test would “shut us down, we probably shouldn’t go down this path,” according to ESPN.
It was, of course, one positive test that shut the league down in the first place. All the way back on March 11, after he’d mocked the concern over the disease and acted cavalierly, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of a game in Oklahoma City. That game was canceled just before tipoff and the NBA season suspended shortly thereafter.
And that was 100 percent the right thing to do. What’s less certain is what precautions the league can take to make resuming the season the right thing to do.
At the moment, it looks like standardizing testing among teams will definitely happen, as will holding games without fans in attendance. Games will also almost definitely take place at just one or two locations with a “campus environment” for players; Walt Disney World in Orlando and Las Vegas are the leading options at the moment.
It’s hard to see how the league could prevent one case of coronavirus from becoming multiple cases—basketball can’t be played wearing masks or observing social distancing. According to the call, the league’s plan is for it to figure that out in the coming weeks through consultation with experts and studying how leagues around the world return to play, filling in the details of its own plan to present to the players’ union.
We’ll have to wait until then to see what it proposes to keep everyone safe, and how to keep play going after a positive test is the biggest unanswered question of all.