NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last week there were no plans to suspend the season.
But the league continues to hold dozens and dozens of players and cancel games because of the coronavirus. The Hawks alone have 12 players absent due to health and safety protocols (plus De’Andre Hunter and Solomon Hill due to injury).
Atlanta coach Nate McMillan thinks it’s not worth continuing like this.
Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
McMillan was asked for the second time in two days if the NBA should take a break – as more and more of his players are positive and they are sliding lower in the rankings.
“Sure, I think of it that way, but that’s not for me to decide,” said McMillan. “The league is trying to continue this season. Of course, it’s really frustrating for us and for a lot of other teams. But there is nothing we can do except follow the leadership of the league. We’re trying to bring in players to replace the guys who go into protocol. It’s a real challenge, and the timing really couldn’t be worse for us to start a six game road trip with a number of our guys in protocol.
The season suspension would stop the overflow of ridiculous games with replacement players.
But the NBA makes money playing these games. Unless the TV networks oppose it enough and fans stop buying tickets en masse, there is no direct reason to take a break.
Suspending gaming would also likely not prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Unless you force players to self-isolate during a stoppage, they will still be interacting with other people – opportunities to contract and spread the virus. Fortunately, the widespread availability of vaccines, improved treatment, and the apparent milder severity of the omicron variant have made the coronavirus less threatening. The NBA can continue to operate in good conscience.
Suspending the season would create significant side effects thereafter. Would the games be composed in a compressed window, increasing fatigue and therefore the risk of injury? Could the full league schedule be pushed back, shortening the offseason and complicating next season? Or would the games be canceled altogether, reducing revenue for owners and players?
McMillan’s frustrations are understandable. It’s hard to train in the midst of these challenges.
But suspending the season is not a panacea.