NBA Plans a Coronavirus Return, But ‘Not Worth the Risk’ for Some Players

The Celtics and Lakers will be active at Disney World.

Getty The Celtics and Lakers will be active at Disney World next month.

The NBA will be returning to action with a season that is likely to start on July 31 and run through the middle of October, accompanied by a training camp that is expected to start on July 1.

The plan, which will feature 22 teams playing eight games at Disney World, plus a play-in for the eighth seed, ensures that the league will get a postseason and an NBA Finals—and at least some portion of the attending revenue that the league has missed since suspending the season on March 11 because of the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The approach still needs official approval of the NBA’s Board of Governors, which will vote on Thursday. But multiple reports have noted that the vote, which requires a three-quarters approval, will be a foregone conclusion when it comes.

The problem, though, is that there remain players who are expected to be with their teams who don’t want to take the risk of getting the coronavirus—because they’re afraid to pass it to a family member, because they have an underlying health issue or for other reasons altogether.

The players association has had a task force working with the NBA on a return plan, and the league expects that the players will be on board with the return road map. The problem, as multiple agents told, is that with more than 250 players expected on the rosters of the 22 teams, unanimity will be impossible.

“Most of the guys are excited, fired up, they want to get back out there,” the agent said. “Those are 95 percent of the conversations I have had. But then there are guys who are saying, ‘Well, nothing has changed, there is no cure, there is no vaccine, why are we playing now?’ If you’re answering honestly, it’s for money. That’s what is driving this for owners and players. And there may be players who will say, ‘It’s not worth the money for me.’”

Enes Kanter: Some Players Don’t Want to Take Risk

That echoes something that big man Enes Kanter told former Celtic great and radio broadcaster Cedric Maxwell: Not all players are that eager to get into a situation in which an infection could easily enter and spread.

According to, Kanter stressed that those sentiments were not coming from him or his teammates. But the feeling is out there in many corners of the league.

“Many people have families and … if you put all the players in a bubble what [are] the families going to do?” Kanter said. “You cannot put them in a bubble for two months and say, ‘Okay, do not leave the hotel’. But, on the other side, if you put the families in that bubble, then you’re putting their life at risk, too.”

Kanter went on:

I have no idea how they’re going to do it, because I’m hearing that — not from the Celtics, but there are some other team’s players out there, that they don’t want to play. They’re like, ‘It’s just a game. I’m not going to risk my life. I’m not going to risk my family’s lives and put their lives on the line to just go out there and play a game. I’m not playing’.

Decision to Play Weighted Toward Top Earners

Because this is a matter of restarting a suspended season, and not a direct collective bargaining agreement issue, union head Michele Roberts has said that the NBA’s plan does not require a vote of the union’s membership.

She also said that the sentiment in favor of returning to play has been “overwhelming.” But the issues of whether all players are on board and what could happen if a player refuses to participate remain.

Part of the issue, another agent told, has been that the move to return to action on players’ parts has been spearheaded by top-tier players like LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry and Chris Paul, all of whom took part on a call in May.

As Chris Haynes of Yahoo! reported, “The group’s decision is expected to hold significant weight in the decision-making process for the rest of the league’s players when it’s time to deliberate on whether to restart the season.”

That group includes some of the wealthiest players in the league, the ones with the most to lose by giving up on the season. Players stand to lose about 1% of their salary for every game missed.

“If you have a guy on a $3 million or $4 million contract, this is a much tougher decision than for Chris Paul or Steph, guys who are getting $40 million,” the agent said. “You might be going through all this to rescue $40,000 or $50,000. There are other things at play but fomr of these guys this is not worth the risk.”

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