The 2020-21 NBA season is slated to resume late next month at Walt Disney World in Orlando. It has been suspended since March 11 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic plaguing the United States.
While the hope is that the season will finish in October with a new champion being crowned, there’s a lot of questions involved in the league restarting.
More than anything, the health of players must be taken into account. Multiple players have already tested positive for COVID-19. The NBA already anticipates a significant number of other stars will have the virus, with testing ramping up this week. As all of this is happening, cases of the coronavirus are skyrocketing across the United States.
Not to play Debbie Downer, but there are several worst-case scenarios to look at and some general managers are thinking about it. We check in on these possibilities below.
Star player(s) tests positive for COVID during NBA Finals
This would be one of the absolute worst-case scenarios. Let’s say the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks are battling for the championship, the two teams seen as the odds-on favorites to meet in the NBA Finals.
What if Giannis Antetokounmpo or LeBron James tests positive for the coronavirus? The NBA has already said it will not halt the season if a player gets COVID-19. Would this lead to an asterisk being placed by the name of the title winner? You can’t have a Bucks title seen as legitimate if LeBron is forced to quarantine with the virus during the Finals.
Star player suffers serious injury
A four-plus month hiatus with players just recently being let back into their facilities. That’s a recipe for disaster. Sure players have been keeping in shape. They will also have a training camp before the season resumes.
However, there’s a chance that a star player suffers a serious injury. After all, it’s the reason one key player plans to sit out. If a devastating injury happens, it would hang over the NBA’s return and put a damper on things at Walt Disney World.
COVID-19 forces cancellation of the season
This might be the likeliest worst-case scenario given the uptick of COVID-19 cases in Florida. The state is not even out of the initial wave. And in reality, things don’t seem to be getting better.
It was just back on June 20 that the state recorded a record high 4,049 new cases. The state has 100,000 confirmed cases with north of 3,200 deaths. The good news here is that Orange County has less than 4,600 confirmed cases with just 48 deaths.
Though, the concern is that Florida continues to see a spike in cases leading up to July 30. That could force the state to shut down its economy once again, leading to the season being canceled.
Head coach comes down with the coronavirus
One of the biggest health-related concerns regarding the resumption of the NBA season has to be the possibility that an older head coach tests positive for COVID-19.
It’s a scary situation for 71-year-old San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets. They represent the demographic of individuals who fall severely ill with the virus. This is something we don’t even want to put out there. But it has to be concerning.
Players just aren’t into it
We’ve already seen multiple big-name players opt out of returning to the season. Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley has a young son with preexisting conditions and doesn’t want to put him in harm’s way.
There’s a chance that players at Walt Disney World are just not into it with the ongoing racial tensions and pandemic both raging in this country. The product struggles to gain traction, especially without fans in attendance. Sure the season is completed, but it’s an ugly brand of basketball. Given how much the sports world wants its fix, this would be a bad look for the NBA.
Los Angeles Lakers eliminated in Round 1
All the excitement. All the build up. Only to be let down. The four-month hiatus stunts any momentum Los Angeles had before the season was suspended. LeBron James struggles. It all leads to a Round 1 exit for one of the top championship contenders.
Sure the likes of Ja Morant or Zion Williamson leading their teams to an upset win over the Lakers would be pretty awesome. But not having the single-most noteworthy player on the court throughout the NBA’s stay in Orlando would not be great.