Yesterday, with the Lakers and Clippers both voting to stop the season, the cancellation of the NBA playoffs seemed to be a distinct possibility. Today, there are multiple reports that the games will ultimately continue, with a slight delay:
Today's three playoff games will be postponed, source tells ESPN. Discussion underway on when teams will resume play. https://t.co/A2PazNKDhy— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 27, 2020
The players have voted to resume the season, source told @Stadium. Games likely to resume tomorrow.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) August 27, 2020
Sources: NBA players in meeting today agreed to continue playing this postseason — but want to find new and improved ways to make social justice statements. Players expect games to resume this weekend.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 27, 2020
There is a meeting of NBA owners and players set for later today, sources tell @MarcJSpears and me. The discussion is expected to include plans of action moving forward on social justice issues.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 27, 2020
It seems even Lakers star LeBron James — one of the players reported to be loudest in their desire to stop the season — had a change of heart.
The Lakers players met as a group a couple of times since last night’s meeting, including this morning before they went into the group meeting with the rest of the teams. https://t.co/EQRi9fwhhB— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) August 27, 2020
This probably always should have been the expected conclusion, given that the reports said that the Clippers and Lakers were the only teams in the bubble who wanted to stop things, which is hardly a majority — and even the reports around that were a little conflicting, with some pushback on that portrayal of events from players who were in the meeting.
Shortly after the morning meeting, James sent his first tweet since yesterday:
Change doesn’t happen with just talk!! It happens with action and needs to happen NOW! For my @IPROMISESchool kids, kids and communities across the country, it’s on US to make a difference. Together. That's why your vote is @morethanavote ✊ #BlackLivesMatter— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 27, 2020
We also have to note that there would have been a multitude of consequences to the end of the season from a basketball and financial perspective, consequences that were likely a factor here, in addition to players continuing to consider how they could best make their voices heard moving forward. For one thing, the NBA Board of Governors would have been nearly guaranteed to exercise the force majeure clause in the current collective bargaining agreement if the season was stopped, which would have torn up the current CBA and started a lockout.
The end of the season also would have meant that it would be unlikely that the NBA came anywhere close to making up the money it lost this year for a variety of reasons (the pandemic and Daryl Morey’s preseason tweets chief among them), which would not only have drastically reduced the salary cap that teams had to work with in free agency whenever a new CBA did get approved, but also would have cost soon-to-be free agents a ton of money — unless some type of cap smoothing mechanism to spread the loss across multiple years had been agreed to by the league and players’ union. That’s still on the table when this is all said and done, but the hit will likely be less now.
Players stopping the season also likely would have meant more layoffs within teams and in the organizations intertwined with it (like the media, stadium operations and more) moving forward. Who knows how much of a factor that was, but all of this stuff likely plays in to some degree.
The players also may have achieved what they set out to achieve, on some level. They stopped the news cycle for a day, got everyone — inside and outside of sports — talking about the issues that mattered to them, and hopefully started some change that could snowball from there. If they still don’t like what they’re seeing, they can always decide to change their decision to return, because they have the power here to withhold their talent to get what they want.
It seems that, for now, that is off the table though. We’ll see what happens moving forward, but at least for the time being, it appears the Lakers and the rest of the NBA will get to finish out this playoff run.