I’ve written several times about why it seems increasingly unlikely that the Los Angeles Lakers (and NBA as a whole) will play another game this season. But not everyone has always been so cynical. On Friday, when it was reported that there was “a significant amount of pessimism right now” in league circles that the NBA would be back this year, Lakers forward Jared Dudley pushed back on that a bit, tweeting that “everybody wants to salvage as much as we can if possible.”
Now? In a Q and A with Michael Lee of the Athletic, Dudley started to walk that back a tad, and since I’ve written enough about why I don’t think the season returning is extraordinarily likely, I thought it might be worthwhile to include why one current Laker is starting to feel the same way:
As I talk to you, is there going to be a season? When you look at it realistically, I thought early on, “Yes. Hey, it’s for sure, it’s too much money involved. It’s a billion dollar industry. They’ll find a way in June and July.” But when you look at it, you’re like, “How do you play games at that time, when the death toll is going to be the highest? Is there going to be enough testing?” Only seven teams got tested, less than 15 percent. And you’re going to have a season, where every player is going to have to get tested before we play again? So that’s a minimum of 450. Coaches are going to have to get tested. Training staffs. So you have at least a thousand people getting tested, and it’s going to have to be more than one time. So, you’re going to have to have thousands of tests on hand to be able to have (a resumption of the season), and are we going to be able to, as a society, to do that?
That last part is a real hang up, both ethically and practically. Would the NBA really be able to a) get enough tests and b) not be being wildly, societally irresponsible by doing so? They’d need those tests to re-start the season, but will that be a higher priority at that point than making sure that the country can test everyone that’s showing symptoms? As much as we’d all love basketball back, all that seems, charitably, unlikely.
Dudley agrees, and expanded even more upon that idea — it’s not just players, coaches and staff the NBA would have to test and isolate, even if they holed up in a neutral location like Las Vegas — in his conversation with Lee:
But then, the question is, are we going to be a society by June, July, that we have enough testing for security, hotel personnel, cleaning crew? And now they can’t leave, because if they go home … they have to stay on site for 60 days, maybe 90. And that’s where I get to the point, are we going to get there. Because it’s a ticking thing. You have to be able to July 1, start the season, maybe July 15 to have the season and not affect it. So, you have a time date.
We hear the president, we hear Dr. Fauci, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Are people still not working? Are you allowed to do your job? Are you (reporters) not going to be able to cover it at the arena? No. It makes it less and less likely. For me being less optimistic. I’m hoping we find a vaccine. But if something crazy doesn’t happen, I just don’t see it.
All of those are really valid points, in addition to the reality that if, despite all of those precautions, a player tested positive anyway the league would have to shut down all over again, this time after moving heaven and earth to re-start. The rest risk-reward trade off just really doesn’t seem to be there, especially when considering that such a tournament may not actually result in the best team winning due to the randomness and lack of prep time such a scenario would induce, and that fans likely wouldn’t even get to be in attendance (taking away a source of extra revenue and motivation to play these games).
There is also the matter that not every player or owner in the league — such as those with nothing to play for — will want to sign off on delaying free agency or the start of next season to participate in all of this, just to name two possible other motivating factors that will follow this lengthy stoppage.
As much as we all want the NBA back this year, and as much as it would suck for the Lakers to not get to finish out their legit chance at a title run, this season just ultimately may be lost. No one really wants it to go that way, but if even Dudley is now getting pessimistic about it, the writing really does seem to be, if not on the wall, at least getting closer to being written there.
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