The NBA’s once-imminent return has quickly been replaced by an aura of uncertainty as players are beginning to have second thoughts on resuming the 2019-20 season amid nationwide protests and the continuing effects of COVID-19. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, some players believe it’s “bad optics” for a league comprised of mostly African Americans to be “sequestered in one location for up to three months merely to entertain the masses and ease the league’s economic burden.”
Last week’s optimism surrounding the league’s return has quickly faded amid growing concerns about the NBA’s proposed “bubble” setting in Orlando as players prepare to potentially spend months in isolation. Kurt Helin of NBC Sports hears a “significant” number of players oppose the league’s return with some even petitioning for a revote. The league approved a plan for 22 teams to resume play at the Walt Disney Resort next month, but the votes cast by team reps last week may not reflect how most players actually feel. In speaking with Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, one agent estimated that up to 2/3 of the NBA’s top 40 players are against the plan laid out by league owners and executives, desiring more “freedom of movement” than the Orlando setup would afford.
While many including Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony of the Portland Trail Blazers have shown similar skepticism, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has reportedly been the most vocal in opposing the league’s restart plan as currently constructed. Beck’s Bleacher Report colleague Taylor Rooks said Irving has organized a conference call for players to voice their concerns Friday night. Irving, who won’t compete anyway following his recent shoulder surgery, considers the coronavirus and widespread protests against racial injustice as impediments to the league’s return. Irving’s opinion carries weight as the 28-year-old serves on the NBPA’s executive committee along with Chris Paul (president of the players’ association), Andre Igoudala, Jaylen Brown, C.J. McCollum and several others. Per Rooks, Friday night’s call will be attended by 150 active players.
Where the league goes from here is unclear, but with players beginning to express their doubts, it appears the NBA may be forced to tweak its restart plan, or abandon it altogether.