The news that 16 of 302 players tested positive for the novel coronavirus is among the biggest pieces accompanying the National Basketball Association’s announcement of the restart of its 2019–20 campaign. Lost in the excitement of pro hoops returning to the mainstream come July 30: the fact that nearly six percent of the base got flagged. It’s a hefty number, particularly when juxtaposed with national and worldwide totals. On the other hand, the sample size is admittedly too small to make a determination one way or the other; for corrective purposes, it holds value only as a reminder of the need for the league to continue taking extraordinary precautions in ensuring the well-being of its stakeholders.
To be sure, the procedure in and of itself underscores the NBA’s commitment to safety from the get-go. Those who tested positive immediately went into quarantine, and only after clearance based on additional checks will they be allowed to enter the bubble environment at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World Florida. Its resolve to finish the season for financial reasons notwithstanding, it understands that under no circumstance will its plan work other than that which keeps the virus at bay.
Make no mistake. More setbacks are in the offing, and, the closer these come to the restart, the bigger the problems that require attention. And there have been significant opt-outs, leading to compounded hurdles. The Nets, for example, are at a crossroads; already without the injured Kyrie Irving and reeling from the decision of Wilson Chandler to sit out the bubble, they’re left to decide their future after Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan’s positive tests. With the latter begging off from playing and the former possibly staying in the sidelines as well, their competitiveness becomes suspect. Why, then, should the rest risk their health?
Thusly, the decision to travel to Florida has become a deeply personal decision. Money is on the line, and its importance cannot be understated. That said, it’s dwarfed by far more pressing concerns: Quality of life is trumped by life. In the final analysis, there is no right or wrong in staying or playing. Meanwhile, fans know better than to complain; the NBA Playoffs will be a sight for sore eyes whether or not the usual suspects burn rubber. The sacrifice isn’t theirs, but on their hardcourt heroes who crave for some semblance of normalcy amid upheaval on and off the court.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations & Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.