Is the NBA’s plan for a Walt Disney World return falling apart?

NBPA president Chris Paul, Houston Rockets, (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
NBPA president Chris Paul, Houston Rockets, (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

We are hearing more and more reports about players being unhappy with the NBA’s plan to resume the season. Could it really all fall apart?

When the NBA’s Board of Governors voted last week to approve the league’s plan for a 22-team season restart in Orlando, it seemed like everything was set. Obviously, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic added a certain amount of fragility but given how much work and discussion by all stakeholders went into the plan before it was announced, it seemed like that piece, at least, could be counted on.

But rumbles of discontent from some of the players have gotten louder and louder this week. On Wednesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that some players were uncomfortable with the parts of the league’s plan. Some of that tension seemed to be diffused on Thursday when Woj’s reporting covered the league’s plan to replace players who were didn’t feel safe participating in the restart. A Friday report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo! added some new information and a tone indicating a more problematic scenario.

How serious is the resistance from some players to the NBA’s plan to restart the season?

In the first three paragraphs of his story, Haynes uses the phrases “multiple players” and “a significant number of NBA players’ to describe those who raising concerns. Those two phrases could mean very different things but, collectively, they imply that this is not just one or two players speaking out.

Haynes characterizes the concerns as both a worry about submitting players and teams with no chance of winning a title to the potential hazards of playing games in Orlando and the optics and practicalities of sequestering players inside the league-mandated bubble and separating them from participating in racial justice protests and direct actions across the country. An anonymous player told Haynes:

"“What message are we sending by agreeing to this during this time? We’re out here marching and protesting, and yet we all leave our families in these scary times and gather to perform at a place where the owners won’t be at? What type of sense does that make? We’ll be going backwards. That place isn’t that magical.”"

Haynes’ reporting indicates that some players are hesitant to speak out publicly about the concerns for fear of “opposing the superstars who are adamant about playing if proper safety measures are in place.” Still, some have spoken publicly, including Carmelo Anthony and Jerami Grant.

UPDATE: Kyrie Irving, an NBPA vice president, is reportedly organizing a call for players to get on the same page.

It sounds like the league is ready to make accommodations for individual players — anyone can opt-out, although they will be forgoing payment for the rest of the season. But the tone and tenor of this reporting makes it seem like opposition may be coalescing behind the scenes, pushing the league to make larger or broader accommodations. Even if the league does not make changes to the plan that’s already been approved, just a few high-profile opt-outs could put an even bigger asterisk on the postseason.

We are nine days away from when players are supposed to report and begin testing, and just over two weeks out from when training camps are supposed to begin. If changes are going to be made, they’re going to need to be made quickly. Stay tuned, because we’re probably going to be hearing a lot more about this in the coming days.

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