THE BIGGEST DECISION IN SILVER’S CAREER “We’re talking about life and death here”

THE BIGGEST DECISION IN SILVER’S CAREER “We’re talking about life and death here”

After Adam Silver joined the call, the National Basketball Players Association organized for players it became clear the League has a lot to figure out. One of the questions that became clear was – how many players would return to play right now? It sounds redundant, but all this time, we were assuming players were eager to come back. A lot of money is at stake, and all indications are they are the least risky demographic for COVID-19.

But when Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving pointed out some players were feeling pressure from teams to come back to training facilities, it became clear not everyone is comfortable with taking on that much risk. Testing is still not widely available, and we are far from a vaccine or a cure. That’s why we got the news that the NBPA was texting all its members to get an estimate about how many players want to come back and play this season out?

This was quickly followed by news that LeBron James, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Stephen Curry held a private conference call on Monday and established a united front in favor of resuming season. After that, the NBPA informed agents that the overall sentiment is in favor of returning to games. They also formed a working group of players to work with the NBA on developing a plan for the return. 

Whenever we hear of committees, working groups, and daily conference calls, something’s up. It boils down to risk tolerance. All this time, we’ve talked about testing – the first condition in any scenario. To limit risk, you need daily testing and a system that compartmentalized contact, so if someone tests positive, not everyone is immediately at the risk of being infected too. 

Epidemiologists would correct me here that it’s not an “if someone tests positive” but “when someone tests positive” The NBA and players need to face the music and agree on protocol – the implication being it doesn’t make any sense to try and return to play if we are going to stop when someone tests positive. That means players need to accept a certain level of risk, a risk that is greater than we think. 

Coronavirus is a respiratory virus – it attacks your lungs. So everyone with allergies or asthma, any condition that impacts your breathing is at higher risk. Even if you don’t, that doesn’t mean you’ll just walk it off. Former Olympic gold medallist Cameron van der Burgh contracted the virus and shared his experience. If there’s a sport that requires top level cardio and lung performance, it’s swimming. Here’s his experience.

“By far the worst virus I have ever endured despite being a healthy individual with strong lungs (no smoking/sport), living a healthy lifestyle, and being young (least at-risk demographic). Any physical activity like walking leaves me exhausted for hours.”

Cameron van der Burgh, BBC.com

There’s no guarantee all players are going to be comfortable with continuing to play if someone tests positive. At the end of the day, Adam Silver will have to make the most important decision of his career. There will come the point in the calendar when different people give him estimates, and he’ is going to have to make a judgment call.

“There’s going to be mistakes made, and we’re talking about life and death here. I wouldn’t want to be the one making the mistakes.”

Brian Windhorst, ESPN

That’s how Brian Windhorst summed up his proposition to postpone the season until November. Let other leagues start games first; see what happens and then follow with basketball. Windhorst’s suggestion is for ‘19/’20 playoffs to play out in November and the beginning of December, a short break, and then just continue with ‘20/’21 end of December. 

It would give the NBA time for testing to became more reliable and widely available, science to find better treatment, and (maybe, not likely) a vaccine All that would significantly reduce risk. Sounds like a plan to me.