Not if, but when.
That’s how NBA players union’s Michele Roberts is looking at the Orlando 22-team restart: It’s not if a player will test positive in the bubble, it’s when. The question is how the protocols are set up to deal with that, and if it’s worth the risk to the players. Here is what she told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:
“That’s the only realistic mindset you can have going into this. A player is going to test positive,” she said. “It’s not any more of this ‘if’, it’s ‘when’ and what can I do to mitigate against the ‘when.’ When it happens, if I’m not successful, what treatment is available to me, what are my chances of being really, really sick, and how are you detecting the presence of an infection? Honestly, I don’t think this is any different than what any American has to come to grips with.”
Over the weekend, the voices of players who have concerns about the restart — due to fears of stealing momentum from the Black Lives Matter movement, for health and safety reasons, and concerns about limitations in the bubble — have become louder. Stars such as Kyrie Irving, Dwight Howard, CJ McCollum have opposed restarting the season in Orlando.
The union’s Roberts said that doesn’t seem to be the attitude of the majority of players on an Orlando restart.
“I think the players are where they want to be. They want to give it a shot and if it doesn’t work, well, we tried. Hopefully nothing catastrophic will happen and we can just figure out Plan B. If the worst would happen and it would spread, we shut it down. This is the virus. I’m going to be disheartened, but I’m not going to be surprised because there’s no scientific or medical ability to protect against it. The players know it. The teams know it. We’re doing absolutely everything we can to mitigate it. If I didn’t think we were, that the league was half-stepping, then I would recommend with every ounce of my being that our players not even think about playing again. But that’s thankfully not the case.”
Players do not have to report to Orlando, and if they stay home they will not be punished. However, they also will not be paid. For a lot of players, the money is a major motivating factor toward a return.
In the coming weeks, each player will have to make a personal decision about whether or not to report. They will have to weigh the risks and rewards, the pros and the cons, and make a call. Players want to be unified about a decision, but right now there is no unity in the ranks.
But Roberts thinks players get the big picture and understand the risks. Now it’s their call.