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SAM SMITH SAYS SILVER IS MAKING “one of the biggest mistakes the NBA ever will make.”


The NBA sent teams a voluminous health protocol and a 113-page rulebook defining life in the Disney bubble or campus, whichever you prefer. The document is so detailed it explicitly mandated players shouldn’t play table tennis in doubles, share snorkels, or fiddle with mouth guards. Talk about overkill.

Such overregulation is absurd for two reasons. First of all, the integrity of the bubble is most dependent on the personal responsibility of everyone involved. You can’t think of every scenario and define it in a rule book. Secondly, it’s OK to play basketball and sweat all over the place, post up, double-team, share one ball, etc., but table tennis is too risky?

One hundred thirteen pages are probably a result of lawyers covering as many bases for future litigation and trying to stress the importance of minimizing the risk of transferring the virus in case you have it. That’s why not all 30 teams are going back to Orlando. The NBA wants as few people in the bubble as possible. Sam Smith, the famous author of The Jordan Rules, thinks that is a mistake. 

“I believe he did the best he could in his view. But his decision to eliminate eight teams from at least playing a few games is devastating to those teams and the legacy of the NBA as a welcoming and open and fair league. It’s branding a quarter of the league as irrelevant, and I predict one of the biggest mistakes the NBA ever will make. Having some player families attend in Orlando and eliminate some teams is unfair.”

Sam Smith, Basketball Network

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Smith said this before the information about families joining once a lot of teams are eliminated and leave the bubble was released, but his overall point still stands. Adam Silver sacrificed some fairness to increase safety. That’s why 22 teams make no sense if health and safety are your no.1 criteria. You either bring in 16 playoff teams, give them some scrimmage and exhibition games and go directly to playoffs, or bring back all 30 teams. Pulling an arbitrary line like that will always give legitimacy to criticism - why not 23, or 21?

The reality is more teams involved benefits the players - it means more regular-season games will be played, and players will get collect more checks. If they show up, that is. Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley are leading the charge to boycott the games in Orlando if the NBA doesn’t commit to supporting African-American equality in a meaningful way. Primarily with leadership positions and money. 

Another thing people are sleeping on is the independent medical board that will review the medical history of everyone going to Orlando and possibly flag certain people from participating in games or going to Orlando altogether. Alongside respiratory issues and conditions that lead to a weak immune system, age is one of the most significant risk factors with COVID-19. When Adam Silver mentioned coaches above a certain age might be banned from participating, the National Basketball Coaches Association reacted immediately. Their position was simple - the NBA can forget about it. We are yet to see if the medical board will flag any coach over 65 years old. If they do, Smith believes it won’t go well for the NBA. 

“Silver attempted to eliminate older coaches, which is ageism and discriminatory and against the values of the Constitution of the United States. Overall, I believe the NBA’s reaction to restarting has been unfair and unequal and not in the best interests of the sport and what the NBA long has stood for.”

Sam Smith, Basketball Network

When it comes to “one of the biggest mistakes the NBA ever will make,” things like keeping Donald Sterling around a few decades too long come to mind. How the bubble plays out could turn out to be one of the “biggest mistakes the NBA will ever make,” but for the opposite reasons. Reducing the number of teams in the bubble is responsible, but letting some non-playoff teams participate and others not is unfair - that is a mistake. 

If the NBA wanted to finish the season, they just should’ve had playoff teams play a set of exhibition games and then the playoffs. Playing these regular-season games to get most teams to 70 games played is just a money grab that unnecessarily increases risk. In case of a significant outbreak of COVID-19 in the bubble, it very well may be one of the biggest mistakes in NBA history.

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