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Roundtable: Should the NBA restart actually take place right now?

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The Clips Nation staff weighs in.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA is coming back. We think. There’s a schedule and everything.

But with the league planning to return through a centralized “bubble” tournament in Orlando to finish up the 2019-20 season, a corresponding trend of the coronavirus surging — in Florida, here in California and in an alarming number of spots in the United States — we have to ask a simple question:

Should the NBA actually restart at the end of the month?

We all have thoughts, so all of the Clips Nation staff jumped on to offer their takes on this fundamental question.

Sabreena: A few weeks ago, I was fully on board with the NBA restart. The rate of coronavirus transmission in the country had leveled off, and the league was instituting all manner of safety protocols to make sure its personnel would be safe in Orlando. The players’ commitment to fighting systemic racism while they were in the bubble confirmed my belief that bringing the season back would not only provide entertainment, but also send a message to the rest of the country about social justice.

Now, as cases in Florida spike, the Brooklyn Nets have lost half their starting lineup, and the Denver Nuggets no longer have a place to practice, it seems like the risks are outweighing the rewards. Yes, the financial ramifications of canceling the season are enormous, but what is the human cost we are willing to pay? In March, one positive coronavirus test was enough to shut the league down; in July, the league won’t even release the number of cases it is comfortable with. The NBA sent a message to the country that the virus was a threat when it shut down, but it risks suggesting that we have this situation under control if the league comes back.

I feel torn because I want so very badly to see basketball played, and to see this specific season that started with so much promise reach a conclusion. I feel a great deal of sympathy for the league, which put together a comprehensive plan but is being let down by the failure of the government and the populace to navigate the pandemic. I’ve been watching the NWSL Challenge Cup, and I find myself forgetting that the tournament is missing a full team due to coronavirus because the event is otherwise essentially flawlessly executed. I think the NBA can do that: put on such a successful show that we almost forget the situation surrounding it. It just doesn’t sound like as appealing of a prospect as it did a short while ago.

Blake: Just like Sabreena, I’m very torn on the NBA restarting. Yes, of course I want to see the NBA return, but is it worth what the cost can potentially be? With how cases have spiked recently, and with how bad things are looking in Florida, I’m not so sure it’s the best idea.

However, I will add this. I think once the players all get to this bubble, they’ll be safer than they are now, and it could work. The NBA has done a great job at planning this out, and I think the players will be more protected there. For the most part, as long as the players follow the protocols and stay inside this “bubble”, I think things will be just fine. Sure, there might be a case or two that happens, but the league seems more than prepared to step in and handle the situation accordingly.

Again, a lot can happen between now and then, and we’ll have to see how life looks in the bubble, but I’m fully on board with this NBA restart for the end of July.

Alicia: I’m largely in agreement with Sabreena and Blake on having to weigh the pros and cons and kind of figure out what risk works best for you. I really want basketball to come back, for extremely selfish reasons. I’m not alone, if you’re reading this you almost certainly feel the same.

To me, all of this comes down to the ultimate outcome. If a player, or coach, or referee, contracts coronavirus in the bubble and doesn’t survive, we’re all going to have to take a long look in the mirror. Earlier this year, we were talking about canceling the NBA CBA as a “nuclear option,” but someone dying of coronavirus around the NBA would make restarting the season itself the actual nuclear option.

Short of that, what if a team has an outbreak and has to forfeit games? What if a playoff series is decided with a team withdrawing from the competition? I’m very much not on board with the talk this season’s title will come with an asterisk, unless that comes because a team had to drop out because of coronavirus.

Throughout all of this I realize there are no easy answers (beyond wearing a mask and staying home as much as you are able to, those are easy), but the risks are astronomical here. I hope, as Blake says, the bubble is safer than the rest of the world. But can we guarantee that? I’m really worried we’ll look back and conclude none of this restart business was ultimately worth it.