When the NBA created a hotline for players to anonymously report violations inside the bubble, numerous questions emerged. How often would it get used? What consequences would told-on players face? Would other players resent how often Chris Paul called?
Some answers are emerging.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 14, 2020
Some players have received warnings from violations, sources said, as league ensures social distancing and mask protocols on campus. https://t.co/LSRX6cXWfP
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 14, 2020
Yes, there is a culture against snitching. That this report is snitching about snitching is truly something.
But there’s too much at stake – health of hundreds of people and a lot of money – to take these protocols lightly. Everyone at the NBA’s Disney World campus is entrusting their safety (and, for players, whose salaries are tied to revenue, livelihood) to those around them. It’s important everyone involved acts responsibly.
The Kings have been hit especially hard by coronavirus.
And now Harrison Barnes reveals he was diagnosed with coronavirus.
— Harrison Barnes (@hbarnes) July 14, 2020
Presumably, Barnes was among the 19 players the NBA announced tested positive for coronavirus in July in home markets.
“Primarily asymptomatic” is a strange assessment. Does Barnes mean he’s mildly symptomatic?
The Kings already faced an uphill climb for making the playoffs. At best, several of their players are falling behind in training. At worst, Sacramento will have its rotation depleted when games begin.
Hopefully, Barnes recovers and joins the team as he hopes. He has a personal stake in it. Even during the lengthy hiatus, Barnes stuck with his pledge not to shave or cut his hair until the Kings reach .500 (or, as he amended it, make the playoffs) or the season ends.
Among the continuing 22 NBA teams, players not playing in the resumption at Disney World essentially fall into two categories:
- Healthy: Base salary reduced
- Not healthy: Base salary preserved
Pacers star Victor Oladipo lands in the gray area.
Oladipo, who returned from a year-long absence shortly before the season got suspended in March, said he was sitting out due to elevated risk of injury during a quick buildup. But he also traveled with the team to Orlando and is even practicing so well, Indiana is reportedly becoming increasingly optimistic he’ll play.
Is Oladipo healthy enough to play?
At stake for Oladipo:
- $2,763,158 if the Pacers get swept in the first round
- $2,993,421 if they play exactly five playoff games
- $3,223,684 if they play six or more playoff games
The union believes Oladipo, who went to Orlando with the Pacers and then cleared quarantine so he could practice, should be paid his remaining salary, sources said.
The league, largely in an effort to set a precedent in case other players who are deemed healthy want to leave Orlando and no longer play, believes Oladipo has opted out and should not be paid, sources said. His public comments about feeling healthy has only solidified the league’s position on the matter, sources said.
The Pacers support Oladipo’s decision and are willing to pay him the salary whether he plays or not, sources said.
Presumably, if Oladipo plays, he’ll get paid like anyone else playing in the resumption. This controversy lingers only if Oladipo doesn’t play.
It’s unsurprising the Pacers don’t want to pick this fight with their star player, especially as he approaches 2021 free agency. Trying to avoid alienating their own players but not necessarily eager to pay for services not rendered, teams collectively want the league to handle these issues.
If teams had ample discretion, the Wizards might have said Davis Bertans – who chose to sit out – had some lingering injury. NBA players are rarely perfectly healthy. There’s always some physical issue to point to. Bertans will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and they want to re-sign him. What an easy way to build goodwill – and maybe even get a discount on Bertans’ next contract.
Obviously, the league doesn’t want those type of shenanigans. That’s why on outside rulings on players’ health can be important.
Oladipo might not be the only borderline case:
- The Wizards listed Bradley Beal as out due to a shoulder injury. But Beal’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said the conversation would’ve been different if Washington were a championship contender.
- Phoenix forward Kelly Oubre Jr. was sidelined by a knee injury when the season got suspended. Suns owner Robert Sarver said he expected Oubre to play in the resumption. Instead, Oubre won’t play, citing the injury.
- Nets center DeAndre Jordan contracted coronavirus and seemingly ruled himself out before determining whether he’d recover in time to play.
- Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie gave it a go after his coronavirus diagnosis, but he also bowed out with plenty of recovery time remaining.
Oladipo’s situation might take care of itself if he decides to play. But the league might inquire more deeply into other situations.
James Harden is “feeling fine,” working out and might travel with Westbrook to Orlando, according to Shams Charania of Stadium:
A source tells our NBA Insider @ShamsCharania that Rockets star James Harden is feeling fine, working out and may travel with Russell Westbrook to Orlando when Westbrook clears from coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/O8CsLBxGJK
— Stadium (@Stadium) July 14, 2020
Was Harden also diagnosed with coronavirus? Is he just waiting for his friend before entering the restrictive bubble? Is there another issue?
These questions beget even more questions.
If both players have coronavirus, they won’t necessarily recover on the same day. Would the first to get cleared wait for the other? Or is traveling together just an idea in case it works out?
If Harden is fully healthy and just waiting for Westbrook, how do their teammates inside the bubble feel about that? Those already at Disney World are spending more time away from friends and family in less-than-ideal conditions.
If there’s another issue… who knows?
The lack of transparency around the situation only invites rumors and guesses.
At least it’s good news that Harden feels fine.