While the fallout from the suspension of NBA play is still reverberating around the league, the immediate thought that struck a pair of Portland stars—C.J. McCollum and Carmelo Anthony—was this: Some players around the are not financially ready to deal with a stoppage in play if it means a stoppage in paychecks.
“It’s going to get bad,” Anthony told McCollum. “It’s going to get really, really bad.”
The two were speaking on McCollum’s podcast, Pull Up with C.J. McCollum, on Wednesday night as NBA commissioner Adam Silver was deciding to suspend the season in light of the positive test from Jazz center Rudy Gobert for coronavirus.
The show can be heard here.
In the first third of the podcast, news dropped that the season would be suspended. Before that, McCollum and Anthony had been discussing some of the financial ramifications of the coronavirus, for the league, for hourly employees and for players. The context, though, was the notion of playing games without fans.
That changed quickly, though, on Wednesday after Gobert’s test became public knowledge.
McCollum: ‘I Am Worried About a Lot of Players’
It does bear mentioning that the average NBA salary is $7.7 million and the minimum salary ranges from $840,000 to $2.5 million based on years of experience. It seems unlikely that players making that kind of money could be in a sudden financial crunch. But the big salaries do not mean NBA players universally have been wise about where they put their money and how much is in reserve. The paychecks can give players a false sense of security.
“It forces us as athletes to educate ourselves on financial literacy,” Anthony told McCollum on the podcast, “what it means to save money, what it means to start portfolios. This is that time because this just happened. Nobody knew this was going to happen. So we are always like—okay we’re good, okay I got this money, I got that money. It’s not until you hit a crisis when you really understand how much money you have and what you have in the bank and what you don’t have in the bank. You start paying close attention to taxes and checks and what you’re spending.”
McCollum said there are players who would and should, be worried about the possible loss of income for the remainder of the season. This is an issue that typically arises when the league and the players union are at odds over the collective bargaining agreement and appear headed for a lockout. But the coronavirus—and the financial fallout that looms—has surprised everyone in sports.
“I am worried about a lot of players in the league who, like Melo said before, weren’t thinking about this ever happening,” McCollum said. “This isn’t something you think is ever going to happen. The fact that a revenue stream, a big revenue stream is going to be taken away from a lot of players right now is a scary thought for some people who may not have prepared for disaster.”
Carmelo Anthony is Used to Time Off
McCollum and Anthony did discuss how long of a suspension they could handle before it became a problem to get back, physically and mentally, to playing at a high level. Once players’ bodies adjust to being away from the game, McCollum said, getting back on the floor isn’t easy.
“It would be hard to mentally step back in after taking a month off, for me personally,” McCollum said.
At that, Anthony had a hearty laugh. “Speak for yourself,” Anthony said.
After all, Anthony had been in NBA exile for a year after the Rockets waived him last year and teams refused to sign him. The Blazers finally stepped up and brought in Anthony in November. He has averaged 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in 50 games this year.
Still, McCollum expressed worry about returning to play after an extended layoff, fearing injury.
“Anything over like 10 days it is becoming danger territory,” McCollum said. “Your body, it’s fight or flight mode, your body gets used to the stress, it gets used to going through the back-to-backs, the practices, the games.”