NBA faces challenge from players that could threaten return to play
LOS ANGELES - On Friday, the NBA outlined the plan for a
return to play.
International players would need to return to their teams by Monday;
everyone else must be back a week later. Teams start mandatory
testing for the coronavirus on June 23, required individual workouts
begin July 1, and then they head to Orlando, Florida, for training
camp as soon as July 7 with games beginning July 30.
That's NBA's plan. But the players? They might have different ideas.
According to multiple players, agents and executives, the belief is
that the season is not in serious peril - not yet, at least. But
fuelled by several concerns, perhaps most prominently that a return
to play would serve as a distraction from the Black Lives Matter
movement and steps toward racial equality and police reform, there
are players considering the possibility of not returning when the
Much of the NBA remains in favour of playing. By not playing, not
only would players forfeit pay for the remainder of this season, but
they also would give owners the opportunity to use the "force
majeure" clause in the league's collective bargaining agreement,
undoing the CBA at a time when players would be significantly
weakened in their bargaining position because of the coronavirus and
the impact it's had on the economy.
For some, the decision to play (or to not) isn't about money.
Portland star Damian Lillard said he thinks that as the NBA prepares
to resume a season halted since March 11, the biggest issue giving
players pause is the possibility a return could distract from the
wave of social change triggered by the ongoing protests against
police brutality and systemic racism.
"I can't speak for everybody, but for me personally, I'm able to do
my job more effectively when I'm in a good place personally. You know
what I'm saying? And this is something that affects me personally,"
Lillard said in an interview with GQ magazine. "I'm just connected to
so many people that it's like, how can I be consumed with a
basketball game? Look at the lengths we're going to play a basketball
game when there's something so much greater going on. Something so
much more meaningful going on, that really needs us. So, I mean, it's
a battle every day for me, man."
Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving has been one of the most vocal voices on
the issue and reportedly is organizing a conference call Friday
Other players have concerns about returning to play in Orlando, where
it's not clear how much freedom players will have once they're on the
Disney campus. Sources said the plan is for players to have access to
shared spaces like outdoor pool areas, but things as simple as dining
with friends on other teams might not be feasible.
And current plans call for Disney staffers to largely continue living
off site. Coronavirus cases are spiking daily in Orlando's county,
leading players like New Orleans' JJ Redick, Orlando's Evan Fournier
and Memphis' Tyus Jones to wonder how successful a "bubble" could be
if it had a hole in it.
"Wouldn't that defeat the purpose?" Brooklyn's Spencer Dinwiddie
According to sources, Disney workers will wear masks any time they
share space with anyone who is part of the NBA campus. Those workers
also will always maintain at least six feet of distance. Employees
also would receive temperature checks.
Housekeepers will provide less frequent service and never enter an
occupied room. They'll also work the same specific floors instead of
rotating from resort to resort. The same goes for employees in
Some players and agents believe the health concerns are the least
prevalent among those questioning whether to play in Orlando, with
the movement restrictions being a bigger problem for players. While
NBA Players Association team representatives voted unanimously to
approve the plan for 22 teams to return for the season's reboot,
other details such as health and safety guidelines still are being
"I know players are fighting for a lot of different things," Lakers
guard Danny Green said in an Instagram chat Friday.
Friday's announced timeline made it clear the kind of commitment
players could be making this summer. For the two teams that make the
Finals, their time in Orlando easily could eclipse three months. For
the 16 playoff teams, the stay will be almost two months, with
families and limited guests eligible to enter the campus only after
the first round is completed.
"Some of us want to hoop and compete," Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma
tweeted. "Don't get that twisted."
Clippers forward Patrick Patterson, who has been acting as the team
representative on union calls, used Instagram to share his simple,
"Let's play," he posted Friday.