By: Daniel Fishman — A&E Editor
With the NBA starting back up on December 22nd with the Golden State Warriors facing the Brooklyn Nets, fans were ready to see their favorite stars like Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant on the court again. With a solid start to the first week with Christmas basketball and 62 points from Stephen Curry, the year couldn’t have started better. However, Covid-19 cases started to spiral their way into the league. On January 7th, the league started to get hit with Covid. 76ers guard Seth Curry was one of the firsts to test positive for the virus in the new season.
Because of contact tracing, the Sixers went on to play the Nuggets with seven players. Something like this has not been a surprise to anyone and it feels normal at this point this season. Sixers coach Doc Rivers was unhappy that they played that game against the Nuggets. “An hour ago we were told we were playing. We have eight active players. One is Mike Scott, and I can tell you right now there’s no way I’m going to play him… I don’t think we should’ve played,” Rivers said.
It was surprising to see that game not be canceled. The NBA learned their lesson and started to cancel games that were out of hand with cases and contract tracing. So far, the Washington Wizards and the Memphis Grizzlies have led the league with postponed games with six games.
After finally returning after six games, head coach of the Wizards, Scott Brooks was not pleased with the situation. “This whole season for us has been weird… Definitely, I don’t think I will ever go through anything like this again. It all happened after one game after another. We can’t keep dwelling on it, we have to put it behind us. We got the first game in. I’m glad we did that,” Brooks said.
Another major aspect of the league is post-game press conferences. In some places, there still are real press conferences, socially distanced, with masks. However, in most places like Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles, the press conferences are on a video call.
One player that showed his frustration during a press conference about the guidelines for the NBA and the commissioner’s plan is Oklahoma City Thunder guard, George Hill. “I’m a grown man, so I’m gonna do what I wanna do … If I wanna go see my family, I’m gonna go see my family. They can’t tell me I have to stay in the room 24/7,” said Hill.
“If it’s that serious then maybe we shouldn’t be playing… It’s life. No ones gonna be able to just cancel their whole life for this game,” added Hill.
His frustration caused major backlash and people were giving him a lot of hate for those comments. Some players may feel the same way, but it is the only safe way to continue with basketball activities at the moment. What is happening right now may not be as safe as the bubble back in the summer of 2020, but it is a great step in the right direction for the players’ mental health. It makes clear sense to what Hill is trying to stay, but he did sign a contract with the NBA and he must follow the specific guidelines that were put down.
There have been stars like Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, 76ers center Joel Embiid, and Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler that have all been out for some substantial time due to the protocols of contact tracing. Usually, these guys are out on the court putting up unbelievable numbers, but now they are missing multiple games due to the virus.
Jayson Tatum, however, tested positive for the virus.
“It’s a lot of unknowns … but I’ve been to the hospital and the doctor. Got everything checked to make sure I was clear to start back working out after not working out consistently. No more symptoms or anything like that, so the doctors cleared me to play,” said Tatum.
It is terrible to see these star players out, especially when Tatum was averaging just about 27 PPG before the setback. Along with him, the Heat have been suffering from an underperforming 6-11 record due to missing their star, Jimmy Butler. Butler led the Heat to the NBA finals last season and it shows the Heat are clearly missing his presence.
Hopefully, we reach a safer league and eventually have the entire league receive the vaccine. Influential players like Lebron James and Stephen Curry have been asked and challenged to take the vaccine, so people who look up to them and the rest of the league take the vaccine.
US surgeon general Dr. Jerome Adams urges Lebron to take the vaccine because it will change the way people may view it. “I think that’s how we promote confidence, and we want people to lead by example,” added Adams.
Commissioner Adam Silver also is waiting on a safe way to have players receive the vaccine. Silver is waiting for the perfect time to do so. Hopefully, it happens soon so players won’t have to go through what Tatum and Butler went through. “At the appropriate time, whenever that is and whether that’s directed federally by NIH or CDC or ultimately state-by-state programs, we think there’s real value in our players demonstrating to a broader community how important it is to get vaccinated,” said Silver.
There are some teams like the Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets that currently have a limited capacity of fans in the arena. Other leagues like the NFL and the MLB have done a solid job in the safeness of having fans at games. One team that will start having fans on January 28th, is the Miami Heat. The Heat is doing a creative and outside-the-box way of having fans. They are using dogs that can sniff the virus, to make sure everyone is safe in the arena.
Luckily for fans, the NBA is back and so far, the season has been a success for all different stars from Stephen Curry to Kevin Durant.
image from theringer.com