The Whiteboard: Is this a make-or-break week for the NBA’s planned restart?

Giannis Antetokounmpo, #34, Milwaukee Bucks, (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Giannis Antetokounmpo, #34, Milwaukee Bucks, (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

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Almost as soon as it was announced, problems began to emerge with the NBA‘s plan for a 22-team regular season restart and then playoff run at Walt Disney World. Over the past few weeks, a growing number of players, with Kyrie Irving as the most vocal frontman, have expressed concerns with everything from player safety to the optics and practicalities of players being sequestered away from the ongoing nationwide protests against police violence and racial inequities.

The nature of the discussions — mostly going on behind closed doors with only a handful of players going on the record, for or against the league’s plan — make it hard to tell exactly how far apart the two sides are, how much the NBA’s plan may need to evolve and how much danger it’s in of actually falling apart. However, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks pointed out, we’re probably going to get a lot of answers this week.

What crucial deadlines are coming up for the NBA’s planned restart?

On Tuesday, the league is scheduled to begin coronavirus testing for players and staff from the 22 teams who are supposed to be headed to Orlando. Wednesday is the deadline for players to inform their teams on whether or not they plan on playing — any player from these 22 teams can opt-out of the games in Orlando, but they’ll forgo their salary for the rest of the season.

The lag between testing and receiving results seems to vary depending on the type of test but it seems safe to assume that if there are any positive tests in the batch performed on Tuesday, that fact would leak or at least be communicated to players before they have to decide whether or not to play. While there is a seemingly obvious incentive for the league not to disseminate information about positive tests (and individual player test results would be subject to HIPAA protection) the optics of the league holding that information while players opt-in make it too risky to not be open and honest.

Even a single positive test result will add uncertainty to the decision-making process and could push players, who otherwise may have planned on playing, toward sitting out. In addition, cases have been spiking in Florida in general and any other big movements today or tomorrow could have a similar effect. And if players start announcing that they’re sitting out, or that information starts leaking, it could also create a domino effect.

NBA teams aren’t supposed to start arriving in Orlando for modified training camps for another two weeks or so, and then it will be another three weeks before games are scheduled to be played. But by the end of this week, we should have a much better idea of where the momentum is on the NBA’s plan and how tenuous a resumption of the 2019-20 season really is.

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