On Friday, the NBA outlined the plan for a return to play. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Slocum
On Friday, the NBA outlined the plan for a return to play. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

NBA faces challenge from players that could threaten return to play

By Dan Woike Time of article published Jun 13, 2020

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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

season reconvenes.

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

night.

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

tweeted.

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

restaurants.

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

discussed.

"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,

two-word message.

"Let's play," he posted Friday.

dpa

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