NBA commissioner Adam Silver said just last week there were no plans to pause the season.
But the league continues to hold out dozens and dozens players and cancel games due to coronavirus. The Hawks alone have 12 players out due to the health-and-safety protocols (plus De'Andre Hunter and Solomon Hill out due to injury).
Atlanta coach Nate McMillan believes it’s not worth continuing like this.
McMillan was asked for the second time in two days whether the NBA should pause – as more of his players test positive and they slide lower into the standings.
“Of course, I think that way, but it’s not up to me,” McMillan said. “The league is trying to keep this season going. Of course, it’s really frustrating for us and a lot of other teams. But there isn’t anything we can do other than follow the direction of the league. We are trying to bring in players to replace guys who go into protocol. It’s a real challenge, and the timing really couldn’t be any worse for us to start a six-game road trip with a number of our guys in protocol.”
Pausing the season would stop the farcical games overrun with replacement players.
But the NBA makes money playing these games. Unless TV networks sufficiently object and fans stop buying tickets in droves, there’s no direct reason to pause.
Pausing games probably wouldn’t stem the spread of coronavirus, either. Unless requiring players to isolate during a stoppage, they’ll still interact with other people – opportunities to contract and spread the virus. Thankfully, widespread availability of vaccines, improvement of treatment and apparent milder severity of the omicron variant have made coronavirus less threatening. The NBA can continue to operate in good conscience.
Pausing the season would create significant side effects afterward. Would games be made up in a compressed window, increasing fatigue and therefore injury risk? Would the entire league calendar get pushed back, shortening the offseason and taking complications into next season? Or would games get outright canceled, reducing revenue for both owners and players?
McMillan’s frustrations are understandable. It’s difficult to coach amid these challenges.
But pausing the season is not a panacea.