Shifting Gears: Is the NBA Returning Soon?

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Despite the fact that COVID-19 has caused more American casualties than the Vietnam War did, the President of the United States, along with governors from a handful of states, are planning to get on with the reopening of the country sooner rather than later. 

Reopening the country? Are we talking about the return of NBA basketball?

However as much as the idea of reopening the country gains traction in the coming weeks, there will inevitably be pushback. Why? Because it’s necessary. 

Yes, reopening a nation too early could foster unforeseen consequences, one of which being the proverbial “second wave” of COVID-19. Governors have made pacts and coordinated to make the reopening of the country more of a process since the current medical science warns against an impulsive decision to open things up again despite a nationwide lack of testing capability, equipment, and treatment options. 

Still, not all states are in the same boat. 

This creates, in the world of basketball, a problem which is not surprising amidst this COVID quandary. No, not surprising, but equally viable for our attention, for we are talking about reopening professional sports, as well. 

Weeks ago, the president attempted to rally leaders from different professional leagues to jump-start an economic reopening, but they, most notably Adam Silver, did not proceed, and all in the name of public health. What we are seeing now that we may not have seen then is that even if the president did get through and convince leagues to reopen quickly, the state and local governments have the last say. 

With that, the unity of the league ceases to be unified. Due to this country’s geographic and sociological diversity, various franchises will be given the opportunity to return to “normal” far before other teams. 

Take the Atlanta Hawks for example. Georgia is the state with arguably the most aggressive road map for phasing out shelter-in-place initiatives. Certain businesses, such as salons and gyms, were allowed to reopen effective April 24, and restrictions were made less stringent on religious gatherings, restaurants, and theaters. It’s safe to say that nobody would knock on the Hawks’ practice facility if they got back to work. 

Living in California, it’s very different. Heck, reading about gyms and movie theaters reopening must have sounded like a midday revery to the average Sacramentan. With all the restrictions in the Golden State, it’s not so easy for teams to get back to the grind, in fact, it is safe to say they could run into legal trouble. 

Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan to reopen society is comprised of four stages. We are still in stage one. Stage two reopens essential business less susceptible to potential spreads of the virus. Stage three sees a wider range of business reopening, including professional sports, but this stage, according to Governor Newsom, is still months, rather than weeks, away. But, again, that would signal the reopening of professional sports, which is what we all want. However, we won’t see actual fans in attendance until stage four, which will be initiated once necessary treatments are developed to fight the virus. 

California cannot even think about reopening until the end of May, and yet, Georgia spearheads the end of social-distancing. And what about other states? Not all are being as careful and vigilant as California, Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, to name a few. But not all are being as trigger-happy as Georgia. 

Earlier this week, Texas Governor, Gregg Abbott, announced a plan to reopen malls, retail stores, and theaters to 25% capacity. Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, has assembled a task force to reopen the country, and his aim in doing so was to have a plan to reopen things by late April. And certain states like Michigan and Indiana are extending shelter-in-place orders with less draconian terms. 

The league is so helplessly stuck in the void between conflicting plans to reopen the country. For how can a whole league return if half of its franchises are prohibited from even gathering in a practice facility together? 

We all want every car on the road to move at the same speed for the sake of swift and easy movement, but it just doesn’t work like that on the average American roadway. Each state, and therefore each team, are in different lanes, moving at different speeds. 

Regardless of whether or not you want to reopen the country soon, we won’t have a unified reopening of the league until all franchises are in a position to return to normal basketball operations. If reopening the country as soon as possible is your M.O. out of sheer boredom of everything unrelated to sports, then you better get ready for more boredom because you can’t speed out of a traffic jam.

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