The National Basketball Players Association denied the other day that it asked members if they want “to try and play again this season.” Its statement, coming within hours of ESPN scribe Adrian Wojnarowski’s tweet disclosing the “yes or no” query its regional representatives supposedly sent its ranks via text messages, was, however, notable for construction. “The NBPA is not engaging in and has not authorized any formal poll of its players,” it said. Which is to say it could have engaged its constituency exactly as reported: in an informal, non-scientific manner.
To be sure, the NBPA has its reasons for splitting hairs. It supports the move of Commissioner Adam Silver to try and salvage the league’s 2019–20 campaign, but under terms that protect the players’ safety and health. And, in this regard, it needs consensus — of which its pursuit cannot be seen as haphazard. That said, it stood to benefit from a straw vote, which, at the very least, would have given it the temperature of its membership base. Never mind that conventional wisdom seems to point to the right answer; save for those already eliminated from playoff contention, the continuation of competition stands as the most viable option.
The obvious benefit cannot be denied. Asterisk or no, the championship is still up in the air, and those with legitimate chances to claim it will want to exhaust all options for the resumption of the season. Even an amended schedule is better than none at all. And it isn’t simply because contenders don’t want to see the work they already put in laid to waste; even without dwelling on the past, they understand the importance of building for the future. Very rarely in a career is an opportunity to make history for the taking. Are there dangers? Yes. Can the dangers be minimized, if not altogether eradicated? That’s what players want to know — precisely because they’re keen to burn rubber anew.
Understandably, the degree of investment is directly tied to the relative returns. Those whose teams have already been eliminated from the postseason won’t be keen to exert extraordinary effort for an endeavor that all but reduces them to practice scrubs. That said, they’ll be good soldiers if for no other reason than because the medium term is likewise at stake. As Laker Jared Dudley noted in response to Wojnarowski’s post, “No playoffs, no tv money, NEW CBA next year!”
Clearly, a lot still needs to happen between now and then. That’s what the NBPA wants to ascertain beyond dipstick surveys and verbal approvals. And because of the evident tradeoffs, the “formal poll” it spoke of will come — hopefully sooner than later, and bearing results fans can accept.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.