The NBA Must Return to the Bubble If It Has Any Hopes of Finishing Its Season

The game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings was postponed because of the corona virus at Golden 1 Center on March 11, 2020 in Sacramento, California.

The game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings was postponed because of the corona virus at Golden 1 Center on March 11, 2020 in Sacramento, California.
Photo: Ezra Shaw (Getty Images)

As one of the chosen few lucky enough to have NBA League Pass and NFL Sunday Ticket, I’ve made it my mission in life to ignore sunlight and other basic human needs in order to consume as many games as humanly possible. But on Saturday night, I refused to partake in the shitshow that was the 76ers vs. Nuggets after learning that Philly would be dressing only seven players. Why, you ask? Because the rest of their roster was unavailable due to an untimely amalgamation of injuries (Ben Simmons was out with a bad left knee, Joel Embiid with back soreness) and COVID-19 (pretty much everyone else).

As a result, the 76ers were left to slay Goliath with a lineup better suited for a rec league championship, and despite rookie Tyrese Maxey’s best efforts—he went supernova with a valiant 39-point eruption—they predictably fell short 115-103. After the game, Doc Rivers, who felt the game shouldn’t have even been played in the first place, addressed the elephant in the room.

“COVID created this but the concern is not COVID now,” he told reporters. “The concern is injuries. We’ve got to be very careful in how we navigate the next week.”

But at this rate, the NBA might not even have a next week. In the last 72 hours, Jayson Tatum—my favorite player in the entire league not named Steph Curry—busted the Wizards’ ass on Friday, then proceeded to test positive for COVID-19 the very next day. As a result, in accordance with the league’s health and safety protocols, Boston’s game on Sunday against the Heat was postponed—SPOILER WARNING: As if the Celtics issues weren’t enough, Miami has their own problems with the coronavirus—as was Boston’s game Tuesday night against Chicago.

As for the rest of the league, the NBA announced that the Pelicans-Mavericks game on Monday is a wrap, too. This means we’re not even three weeks into the 2020-21 season and they’ve already postponed three games (and counting).

This begs the inevitable question: How in theeeeeeeee hell is the NBA even supposed to finish this season with this bullshit going on? Especially with big names like Tatum and Kevin Durant missing multiple games due to COVID-19?

The league was able to sidestep this pandemic entirely last summer by erecting the NBA bubble, in which hostages players were treated to arcade games, virtual chaplains, and daily nasal swabs in order to stave off boredom and preserve their safety, but such an expensive endeavor (with a price tag of approximately $150 million) isn’t nearly as feasible with all 30 teams—and presumably would be even more complicated and expensive.

So what is a league with about 450 players, dozens of team personnel, and billions of dollars at stake to do? The league is reportedly entertaining the idea of hitting the pause button on the season for 7-14 days, but I have an even better idea: just pull the plug entirely. Because unless everyone is willing (and able) to recommit to another NBA bubble, there isn’t a chance in hell they’ll cross the finish line on this season anyway. Not with games still being scheduled so closely together—this ain’t the NFL—while players remain in each other’s immediate proximity.

But since it’s unlikely another NBA bubble will be happening anytime soon, I guess we’re stuck watching the chaos continue to unfold until COVID-19 inevitably makes the decision for the league itself.

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