Even after a meeting this weekend among NBA players where some voiced objections to returning to action, the NBA is working out plans for the season’s resumption.
The players voiced several concerns, which the NBA says it is addressing.
“We understand the players’ concerns and are working with the Players Association on finding the right balance to address them,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in an email to The Inquirer.
On June 5, the National Basketball Players Association representatives approved the NBA’s 22-team format to restart the season on July 30 at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.
Since then, the NBA and the NBPA have been working through details on the resumption of the season.
According to ESPN, on Friday nearly 100 NBA players met on a call and NBPA vice president Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets made a case for not resuming the season. Some players agree with Irving, that returning to the court will negatively affect the Black Lives Matter movement by taking attention away from it. Some others argued said that playing would enable them to bring more attention to the movement.
Lakers center Dwight Howard, in a statement to CNN, backed Irving.
A portion of what Howard wrote included, “The less distractions, the more we can put into action into rediscovering ourselves. Nations come out of families. Black/African American is not a Nation or Nationality. It’s time Our Families became their own Nations. No Basketball till we get things resolved."
Speaking Monday night on an ESPN show about the return of sports, NBA commissioner Adam Silver remains confident that all will work out.
“My sense is we’re going to be able to work through most of those issues, over the next few weeks,” Silver said. “But as I said that we also have an arrangement with the Players Association where, if a player chooses not to come, it’s not a breach of his contract, we accept that."
Silver feels that the return of the NBA could give people a lift, something to look forward to, and also a platform for those looking to discuss social issues.
“It’ll be a respite from enormous difficulties people are dealing with in their lives right now, and I also think in terms of social justice issues, it’ll be an opportunity for NBA players in the greater community to draw attention to these issues because the world’s attention will be on the NBA in Orlando, Florida, if we’re able to pull this off,” Silver said.
Five-time All-Star Portland guard Damian Lillard was also a guest on the show and he seems conflicted about returning.
“... With the pandemic that we’ve been in over the course of a few months, I think basketball would have been great for that, or will be great for that, because it’ll be getting back to somewhat normalcy, having our athletes on TV playing doing what we do. But I think as far as the racial injustice, I think that’s where a lot of the struggle is for a lot of athletes,” Lillard said. “I think our league is made up of so many African American players. And a lot of our hearts are with our people, our mind is with our people, and we feel like we should be a part of it ... that fight. And that’s what I struggle with, I think that’s what you hear in a lot of guys kind of coming out saying maybe we should be focused on that. Instead of worrying aboutgoing back again, and jumping into the sea.”
Even though Lillard is conflicted, he appears ready to give it his best. He did admit that there is apprehension to return from a health standpoint.
“I’m not really sure I feel 100% comfortable,” he said. “There’s a risk that I’m willing to take, like I mentioned earlier, this is what we do. This is our job. And this is how we take care of our families, and also like I mentioned earlier, is my way of providing for communities, impact in my community. So to play the game I love, to resume the season, is a risk I am willing to take."
NBA teams are expected to begin training camp on June 30 at their own facilities and depart for Orlando the following week.
Each team will play eight regular-season games before the playoffs. (There could also be a mini playoff for the final spot if the ninth-seeded team in a conference is within four games of No. 8 seed after the eight games).