All day long, reports have flown about the NBA season potentially being in jeopardy. For the Lakers, who have a shot at winning their 17th championship in franchise history — the first of their careers in the case of players like Kyle Kuzma, Jared Dudley and others — the season not resuming at Disney World would be a bad thing, strictly in terms of basketball outcomes.
So perhaps it’s unsurprising that Kuzma and Dudley, two of the most outspoken Lakers on social media, clapped back at their peers who are less thrilled about the prospect of a season resumption on Twitter:
Some of us want to hoop and compete don’t get that twisted.... https://t.co/GoRnvy6rzN— kuz (@kylekuzma) June 12, 2020
Facts! What time is this zoom call today! I’m on it! https://t.co/5IDd1mKRv6— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) June 12, 2020
Again, this isn’t super surprising. The Lakers are a true title contender, so self-servingly, it’s not a shock that they’d want to see that journey through. There is nothing right or wrong about that, intrinsically, whether you agree or not likely depends on your viewpoint. Some players on teams with less of a chance may feel differently, or may be worried more about other things, like the bubble restrictions, or the distraction from current racial issues that having sports back could create:
There's no singular conversation driving discussion among players now: It isn't just the Black Lives Matter movement, or the coronavirus, or bubble limitations, or family concerns, or risk of injury, or money. Many players are discussing and weighing it all. https://t.co/2fqmUfgbNx— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 12, 2020
Some players are very interested in the possibility of sitting out the rest of the season. Malcolm Brogdon explains to @jj_redick and @talter what’s he’s heard from peers as an NBPA executive.— #RingerNBA (@ringernba) June 12, 2020
Full interview: https://t.co/YnHdQo3tax pic.twitter.com/naGdPvG5k2
Even Kuzma himself, in an interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated earlier this week, seemingly hinted at being less than thrilled about some of the same things that players who aren’t in as much of a rush to “hoop and compete” don’t like (emphasis mine):
“It’s gonna be interesting and different for sure, to say the least. Especially being in a bubble, that’s going to be a little bit different playing with no fans. But it’s going to be interesting. Because I think by the time we actually start playing the world is going to be in a different place. There’s not going to be so much social distance because you just see more and more things are opening, more and more people are coming together. And for us to be in a bubble, that’s kinda weird. But we’ll see.”
Still, as is made obvious by his tweet above, Kuzma thinking those restrictions are “weird” has not changed that he wants to finish the season:
Spears: Obviously you want to be in that bubble for a long time.
Kuzma: “Damn right.”
That said, Kuzma can also recognize some of the challenges that come with returning from a long layoff, something else players around the league might be worried about:
“From an NBA standpoint I think the biggest challenge is getting our bodies right... Probably when we start playing there is going to be a game every other day, and probably not that much time to prepare our bodies, so the biggest thing is making sure everybody’s bodies can handle the load that we’re about to get in to. That’s a serious thing, and of course everyone wants us to play — and rightfully so, we do too — but it’s about our safety first.
“It’s interesting, I heard something about a German league coming back, and when they came back they had 19 season-ending injuries when they came back, and that just shows you that it’s important for our bodies to be able to withstand that load.”
All of this really highlights the point that there are a variety of concerns about this plan, concerns that one would think should have been sorted out before the NBA so loudly tried to trumpet that it was back. But that’s not how things went, and now the league and the NBPA have to deal with that perception as they continue these public squabbles both with each other and amongst themselves.
Various players will reportedly be getting together on a Zoom conference on Friday night to discuss all of their concerns and try to sort things out. If they can’t, then it seems as though these negotiations could break down, or at the very least be slowed from the current schedule.
And if a breakdown leads to the season not being played, the NBA will almost assuredly enact the “force majeure” provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement — a scenario Dudley detailed last month — allowing the league to tear up the CBA and trigger a lockout. That would not only put next season in jeopardy, but also stop players with contracts from getting paid and possibly upend the entire league economic structure as we know it, all during a pandemic that would leave players with as little leverage to negotiate a new CBA as they’ve ever had.
Obviously we can hope things don’t come to that, but what is for now just a little snag could end up having far-reaching implications if it continues. We’ll see how the players and league progress from here, but this will be worth paying attention to for those hoping for basketball.