A single NBA player’s positive test for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, caused an immediate pause on the NBA season and the subsequent suspension of all pro sports in North America. Rudy Gobert’s positive test caused a cascade of action throughout the United States and was just the first of a handful of positive tests on various NBA teams as the league shut down and tried to trace the spread of coronavirus in the Association.
Tuesday, however, brought word that if the NBA manages to restart its season in an attempt to crown a champion in 2020, a single positive COVID-19 diagnosis would not create the same chaos. Amid reports from various insiders about a conversation between major stars in the NBA and a conference call about the possibility of the league restarting later this summer was a theme stressed by NBA commissioner Adam Silver about the risks associated with a restart. Namely, if someone comes down with COVID-19 the league would not shut down immediately like it did in March.
ESPN Sources: Attendees left Board of Governors call w/ Adam Silver today feeling positive about momentum toward an NBA return to play this season. Discussion included how league/players will need to get comfortable w/ some positive tests for virus not shutting down a resumption
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 13, 2020
“Getting comfortable” with life in the NBA amid positive coronavirus tests is a considerable challenge to overcome if the restart of the league is to be sustainable. Positive tests could come from asymptomatic players who spread it to others they’re in close proximity with, meaning a single positive test could lead to a cascade of new COVID-19 cases. It’s not just the inherent problem of having to remove that player or coach or staff member — no matter how valuable they are — from the lineup and back into quarantine but the fact that the person in question would then be unavailable for a matter of weeks as the season and postseason continued.
The NBA is exploring all options when it comes to resuming play, and players are interested in continuing the season and crowning a champion even if it means playing without fans. But the Association is not immune to the risks that come with grouping people together while a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus is spreading as a pandemic with little to no treatment available to fight it. Not every COVID-19 case is deadly, and several NBA players had minor cases and recovered relatively unscathed. But that’s far from the only result of contracting coronavirus, and the more time people spend together in groups like the NBA needs to actually play basketball heightens the chances of something going wrong in an attempt to finish the season. Tuesday’s news indicates the league is open to accepting those risks as necessary, and seems to be asking players and coaches to accept those terms in order to compete.