Kyrie Irving is leading a coalition of players questioning the NBA’s restart.
Will that undermine the league’s plan to resume at Disney World with 22 teams?
Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
ESPN’s reporting with players, agents, the NBPA and league officials over the weekend found no indication that the NBA’s return is in jeopardy — or that there’s even a significant group of players ready to sit out.
I think he’s speaking for more people than we thought, maybe even a few days ago.
There’s not great enthusiasm among players in this league about going into the bubble, about all the things that are going to come with it, especially on the teams who are not competing for a championship. And it is certainly a sense you get in talking to players – good players in the league – more I would say here in the last week. And I do think on some level Kyrie has tapped into some of that. And it’s on a multitude of issues.
It seems Irving is doing two related, but distinct, things:
1. Advocating for players to sit out in order to combat systematic racism
2. Providing a forum for players to communicate their concerns – from health to living conditions to distracting from protests – about the restart
On the first, there are reasons to question Irving’s motivations and the effectiveness of his plan.
On the second, I commend him.
Superstars united on finishing the season (and continue to use their influence on less-heralded players). National Basketball Players Association leadership negotiated a plan with owners. The union approved the format without having all players vote.
Meanwhile, some players – who’d actually have to report to Disney World – didn’t have their voices heard.
Those players players might bear some responsibility. They could have spoken up sooner.
But, fairly or not, it was on the union to gain a better understanding of its members’ priorities before advancing this far. A simple yes-or-no poll – which leaves essential details to respondents’ imagination – doesn’t cut it. Even if players were difficult to reach, the union had a responsibility to track them down and gather their thoughts.
Yes, the union merely approved a 22-team format – not absolutely guaranteeing the whole operation. But the format and players’ concerns go hand-in-hand. If players far outside championship contention are the most opposed to playing, maybe fewer teams should have been invited.
As NBPA vice president, Irving probably should have facilitated this discussion earlier. But he deserves no more blame than anyone else in NBPA leadership, and he’s at least doing something about it now.
Of course, there’s a major difference between apprehensiveness about playing and actually not playing. Nearly everyone has trepidations. Not playing would come with major financial costs.
But it’s good that players are being more encouraged to discuss the pros and cons of resuming – wherever that leads.