On Wednesday, we learned a few more things about the status of the NBA season restart plan. For one, any Lakers — or players on any other team — who don’t feel safe heading to Disney World will be able to sit out without pay but no further penalty. Also there is reportedly a faction of players around the league who don’t like the “bubble” rules being placed on them, and may not want to resume the season anymore.
Now, maybe the last part shouldn’t be a surprise after Lakers center JaVale McGee called the idea of bubble restrictions “slightly concerning” and NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts compared being stuck at Disney World for three months to “incarceration.”
Still, it is newsworthy that players beyond McGee are apprehensive about the limitations nonetheless, as such concerns — in conjunction with Florida’s spiking coronavirus cases as the state reopens — are the types of things that could torpedo this season resumption plan before it even begins.
But if there are still enough players to make this happen and the NBA decides to go through with it, teams will have avenues to replace players who get sick, are concerned about getting sick, or just don’t want to go to Disney World, according to the latest report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Sources: Players deciding against participating in Orlando could be replaced by a substitution player. NBA plans to allow replacements for players who test positive for COVID-19 or suffer injuries. Replaced players become ineligible for the rest of 2019-2020 season. https://t.co/6J62J0k8Nv— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 11, 2020
Now before we get to who this might include, let’s look at Wojnarowski’s previous report on which players would be eligible to be added. While the NBA’s plans are not finalized yet — so this is still somewhat subject to change — Wojnarowski wrote that teams would be allowed to use two-way players in the playoffs, and have no limits on how many players they could sign to replace those that stay home or get sick, as long as those players met a couple of benchmarks for eligibility (via ESPN):
Eligible replacement players probably will have had to be signed in the NBA or G League or be on training camp contracts this season, sources said. Under these restrictions, for example, no team could sign veteran Jamal Crawford — who went unsigned all season — or an international player.
Update: Later, Woj revealed that these players would not be given an extra roster spot, and would have to take the place of one of a team’s 15 guaranteed contracts:
Teams are allowed to bring as many as 17 players to Orlando, including 14 or 15 players on a standard NBA contract and additional two-way spots. For instance, Brooklyn can designate two-way players Chris Chiozza and Jeremiah Martin as roster spots 14 and 15 to replace injured stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. However, the Nets wouldn’t be allowed to sign two replacements for Durant and Irving.
Playoff rosters will consist of 15 players, including 13 active and two inactive. Once the playoffs start, teams can replace any player who tests positive for the coronavirus with a substitute player. This new player would be subject to a minimum seven-day quarantine period.
So what I know most of you are going to ask, based on previous comments and tweets I’ve gotten, is simple: Can the Lakers sign DeMarcus Cousins for the playoffs?
The short answer is “yes,” but the longer answer is that it still seems fairly unlikely, for a variety of reasons I blogged about here. Still, in that blog is a report in which two NBA insiders are quoted as saying they could see it happening, so we can’t exactly rule it out.
The stipulations Woj reported don’t leave a ton of other interesting names available, either. The Lakers already signed two of the better buyout market guys, but in theory Tyler Johnson (formerly of the Suns) is still available if the Lakers wanted point guard help. J.R. Smith, another guy the Lakers were linked to — and signed Waiters over — in the buyout market would is also an option with this latest clarification.
Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report rounded up a few more generalized options for teams, including former LeBron teammates Isaiah Thomas and Iman Shumpert, so that’s a good read if you’re looking to educate yourself on who the Lakers might have shot at. But honestly, most of these guys are not better options than Markieff Morris and Dion Waiters, who the Lakers already signed off the scrap heap.
The buyout/waiver/reinforcement market isn’t going to be what hands the Lakers their 17th championship, in all likelihood. In fact, if they’re dependent on it, it will likely mean something went extremely wrong.
No, the Lakers will need to rely on the team they put together. It’s good that they’ll have options if they need them because something is better than nothing, but this team is a legitimate contender already. They just need health, a little luck and for their chemistry to keep clicking, and they’ll be all right when the season resumes on July 30.