The National Basketball Players Association is reportedly polling players about whether they want to resume the NBA season.
Divides are emerging.
Some of the NBA’s biggest superstars formed a united front to resume the 2019-20 season during a private conference call Monday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Chris Paul, the president of the players association, arranged the call that included LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook, sources said.
Toward the end of the call discussing the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic, all parties were in agreement to take the court with proper safety measures once the league is given the green light to commence, sources said.
The majority of players who are essentially eliminated from postseason contention would rather the league start back up with the top eight teams in each conference competing in some sort of playoff, sources said.
Shams Charania of The Athletic Tweeted out this update along the same lines:
Sources: The NBPA has sent a memo to agents stating sense is players and NBA both want to finish the 2019-20 season — and informed reps of the players listed below serving on new committee working with the league on potential plans. https://t.co/fKC0hFiE1M
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 13, 2020
This does not contradict the first report: Players do want to finish the NBA season, but for some players on teams well out of the playoffs that means something different — without them — than it does for players on playoff-bound teams.
This is effectively a return to Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Remember, it’s not just owners vs. players. It’s also owners vs. owners and players vs. players. People within each “side” sometimes have competing interests.
The uncertainty caused by the coronavirus only adds complications.
Of course, players want to return once “proper” safety measures are in place. But which safety measures are “proper” are in the eye of the beholder. Remember, the league office and Kings thought it was safe to play March 11. The Pelicans disagreed.
The cited stars might have different visions of “proper” safety measures.
The group certainly comes from differing situations.
LeBron’s and Davis’ Lakers, Leonard’s Clippers and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks are prime title contenders. Russell Westbrook’s Rockets are a championship wildcard, and Paul’s Thunder are capable of a playoff run.
But Lillard’s Trail Blazers are outside postseason position (though within striking distance). Though Durant’s Nets are in the top eight, he doesn’t plan to return this season. Curry’s Warriors – the only team already eliminated from the playoff race – have made the most noise about being finished.
Yet, those stars all share a common goal of resuming the season (and will surely be influential with other, less-heralded players).
On the flip side, some players on lottery teams surely want to return. NBA players are highly competitive and generally just want to play basketball.
Money will drive some decisions.
Players’ collective salaries are determined by league-wide revenue. So, players who go on long playoff runs help increase the pot while drawing from a relatively modest playoff pool ($20 million in 2017-18 with changes from there based on season-long revenue).
That works well enough in normal times. But if only playoff teams return to help the league generate revenue, should those teams’ players – facing greater-than-usual danger – get a larger cut? It’s not necessarily fair for some players to stay home and let other players work to protect everyone’s salaries.
Then again, the more people in a bubble, the more risk of coronavirus infiltrating. And how much revenue would lottery teams generate, anyway?
At some point, the NBA will present a specific return-to-play plan to players. They’ll determine whether it’s acceptable.
In the meantime, battle lines are being drawn.