It’s time to put the NBA on hold

The COVID-19 outbreaks across the NBA are reason enough to pause the season

Toyloy Brown III, Managing Editor

Not doing what’s right because it’s too difficult to enact is a bad reason for most things, and that excuse is dishonest. There are a number of complicated and demanding systems in society that are tolerated. Why? Because it helps the bottom line.

Peyton McKenzie

If the main reason against pausing the NBA season is because it’s an inconvenient challenge with TV contracts and overall scheduling, know that this is a terrible reason not to help a league that is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak. Also, know the true motive for not pausing basketball is because prioritizing health in this instance hurts the wallets of billionaires.

On Dec. 17, it was reported that the Brooklyn Nets have started the process of bringing back its unvaccinated, seven-time All-Star Kyrie Irving, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The following day, Irving was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocol along with Kevin Durant. 

The Nets’ choice to reinstate Irving was a clear mistake — not simply because he’s in protocol now. Additionally, the NBA continuing its season without pause at this point is nearing being deemed reprehensible due to the plethora of players and staff who have entered the health and safety protocol. Let’s start with Brooklyn first. 

Since Irving remains unvaccinated and plays in New York — a state that requires people to be fully vaccinated to enter public arenas — he can only play road games, with the exception of the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors. The best-case scenario is that Irving plays 21 games since the earliest he can exit protocol is Dec. 28. 

This decision to bring back Irving, which was made by Nets owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks, is a complete backpedal of the team’s stance a couple of months ago. 

“Kyrie has made a personal choice … and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability,” Marks said in his Oct. 12 statement. “ It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice.” 

The Nets’ ruling to get Irving back on the court was ill-advised and sets an unnecessarily bad precedent for the organization reneging on its principles of supposed “togetherness and sacrifice” it expects.

Peyton McKenzie

Optically, the timing could not be worse since the NBA and other sports leagues are being decimated by COVID-19 outbreaks.

The NBA had at least 70 players enter the health and safety protocol in December as of the morning of Dec. 18, and at least 50 were placed in the protocol the past week. In the season’s first six weeks, only 16 players entered the protocol. 

With numerous players on the COVID-19 list, Brooklyn has also been forced to play its premier star, Durant, the second-most minutes per game in the NBA (37), which is the most minutes he’s seen on average since his age-25 season in 2013-14. 

Selfishly, NBA diehards want to watch Irving hoop since he is one of the most technically sound players in basketball. His presence should make a Nets team that is already the top seed in the Eastern Conference, by a wide margin, even better. The Nets hope that Irving can relieve the heavy onus on the literal slender shoulders of the 33-year-old Durant, who is having an MVP-caliber season. 

Even with this acknowledged, the Nets should not have cleared Irving because COVID-19 is still a serious threat that can impact his health as well the team he plays for and the league at large.

As much as devoted basketball watchers want to see Irving on the hardwood, we don’t want to disrupt our daily NBA intake by pausing games even more so. Yet that is what should be done because it will help keep the sanctity of the season intact and prioritize the safety of everyone involved. 

The rapidness of players being unavailable night after night is hurting the product and has a trickle-down effect such as the Nets’ example of making a star such as Durant carry too big a load in games. Players who are suddenly removed from basketball activity or re-enter suddenly, like Irving, may also increase their chances of muscle injuries. 

There is also the actual fear of the omicron variant, which is spreading throughout the world, that has already been discovered in players and staff for multiple NBA teams. This variant is believed to spread quicker than the delta variant with a Hong Kong study finding that the omicron variant multiplies 70 times faster than the delta variant. 

Outside of the Nets, numerous teams have at least four players out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocol. In Cleveland’s case, five more players have tested positive the morning of Dec. 19. The Kings, the Indiana Pacers and the Los Angeles Lakers have their head coaches in the protocol as well. The Raptors’ Vice Chairman and President Masai Ujiri tested positive. These absences of players and staff have and will continue to impact the outcomes of games and have ramifications in other aspects as mentioned earlier. 

As of Dec. 19, the NBA has postponed five future games because of the shortage of players teams will have due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As much as devoted basketball watchers want to see Irving on the hardwood, we don’t want to disrupt our daily NBA intake by pausing games even more so. Yet that is what should be done because it will help keep the sanctity of the season intact and prioritize the safety of everyone involved. 

— Toyloy Brown III

The NBA has agreed with its players to elevate protocols with rules such as demanding players and coaches to wear masks at all team activities when they are not playing games. The memo sent to teams also stated players and the teams’ staff members will be tested on game days over a two-week period starting Dec. 26, with the exception of people who received the booster shot 14 days earlier or have recently recovered from COVID-19. 

This is not going to be enough to significantly lessen the number of cases that are sprouting not just each day but literally every hour. While writing this on Dec. 18-19, Twitter alerts reporting more players entering the protocol have been nonstop, impacting the numbers and information used throughout the story. 

Continuing the NBA season at this rate is going to ruin, if it hasn’t already, what has been a fun season of hoops where close games and breakout performances are common occurrences. However, an overwhelming number of stars and exciting players are gone due to health and safety protocol like Durant, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Trae Young, De’Aaron Fox, Pascal Siakam and more, which will mess with the league’s entertainment value and hamper teams’ rotations and mess up win-loss records. 

From strictly a health perspective, the omicron variant is real and the virus overall is spreading, and it is not worth the risk of having these players traveling every day for basketball’s sake.

Christmas, the NBA’s biggest holiday, is right around the corner, and it is unlikely the league would ever stomach postponing its Christmas slate of games at this point. Some in the league office may try to reason with us and say that it’s too complicated to arrange a stoppage at this point with the ink of TV contracts being dry and scheduling not worth jacking up. 

If what is preventing the league from making the morally right decision by pausing the season for a couple of weeks is the difficulty of figuring out the logistics, then that is not sound logic for letting this COVID-19-created fiasco in the NBA continue to grow. The NBA should realize that it’s worth stopping now the week before Christmas in order to be safe for the new year.