We’ve been getting good signals from the NBA and all the stakeholders. Star players had an encouraging conference call with Adam Silver, Disney World is close to becoming the agreed-upon destination, and the league is expected to send out a memo instructing teams to call back players that left their home market. These little victories and our desire to get the NBA back blocked out the big picture - a deadly virus is rampaging through the world. We have no cure and no vaccine in sight.
It was a given that players would come back and play; testing and “the bubble” were the issue, right? Not quite. More players have stepped out and expressed reservations about returning to play in the near future. We assume that fit athletes in their 20s and 30s have no reason to be concerned, and with so much money at stake coming back is a no brainer. Not everything is about the Benjamins (baby).
Joe Ingles talked to Yahoo Australia and shared his feelings about returning to play. Ingles and his wife Renae spoke about their son’s Autism, and have been working hard to raise awareness and help others with similar stories. The four-year-old Jakob has a weakened immune system and is at higher risk if he contracts COVID-19. In addition to that, Renae is pregnant with their third child. All this made Ingles’s priorities very clear.
“I’m prepared to walk away, fly to Australia, and never play another game in my life and be very content with it.”
Joe Ingles, Yahoo Sports Australia
Despite the fact the Jazz training facility has been made available to players, Ingles has been working out at his home gym and hoop. The risk for him just isn’t worth it. Yes, the NBA would take all possible precautions and have the best possible care available for players and their families. The thing is, the best possible care and caution we have in the world is still not good enough. Some players could go into the bubble alone and minimize risk for their families that way, but Ingles has two kids, one with Autism and a third baby on the way. That wouldn’t be an option for me either.
Another player that expressed skepticism about returning was Larry Nance Jr. While Nance Jr. said he misses the game and is eager to come back, Nance has Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation of your digestive tract and impacts the strength of your immune system. As such, Nance is at higher risk if the gets the virus. We see him dunk and think the guy’s in perfect health. A lot of players have chronic conditions that they manage, but when a virus like this hits, they are still at higher risk.
The conference call NBA’s superstars had with Adam Silver was vital because they are the least incentivized to return from an economic aspect. You probably think they have most to lose, given the fact they have the highest salary in the league. But the marginal value of that extra dollar compared to the risk COVID-19 brings is very small. Harden’s, LeBron’s, or Curry’s bank account is looking good if they never play again.
It’s the guys playing for the league minimum that need every paycheck - they are often taking care of a lot of family members and supporting friends. For them, coming back to play is a no-brainer. Harden has the luxury of waiting it out and seems like he’s considering it.
“Harden said he would play games again without fans, but would feel comfortable returning when the pandemic has ‘calmed down all the way to a minimum.’”
Jabari Young, CNBC
I have no doubt in my mind that most players are ready to go ASAP, but let’s not assume it means everyone feels that way. There will be players who have legitimate reasons not to be as enthusiastic about resuming play, and they shouldn’t be criticized for such a decision. We all have to decide what our comfort level with exposing ourselves and those we care about is. As much as we miss the NBA, let’s not forget about the big picture here. Stay safe.