A little over a month ago, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced the suspension of the 2019-2020 season indefinitely. The move came in response to the news of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19, a development that shocked the league and put into question the health of its players. Rightly so, the NBA was the first professional sports league to put its season on hold to protect the well-being of all involved.
It is time now to start considering what the road back to resuming play should look like. Although it will not be happening anytime in the immediate future, despite President Trump’s aspirations to resume everyday life, we can still speculate as to what form the league should take, when it eventually resumes. The set of circumstances surrounding the NBA is entirely unprecedented, and the remedy to this predicament will have to be unorthodox.
When the league sees its eventual return, teams should be placed directly into the playoffs. A large chunk of time has already been lost in the normal calendar of play – there is no time left to afford regular season games. Yes, it will be unfortunate for teams on the bubble of a postseason appearance like New Orleans or Portland. But time is a valuable commodity, and the playoffs take a considerable amount.
Next, and this one is kind of obvious, the games should be played in empty arenas. It was a plan the NBA toyed with before Gobert tested positive. At whatever point this happens over the next few months, it is safe to assume COVID-19 will not be entirely contained. Cases will likely linger around until immunity is built via widespread vaccination. To safeguard the well being of all parties involved, the NBA should not be letting large crowds gather inside confined arenas. It will be tough for everyone associated with the league, especially the fans, but it is a necessary condition for public health.
Playing playoff games in front of empty arenas, with no fans to cheer players on, will surely seem awkward at first, but I believe it has the potential to provide a kind of entertainment we have not seen in the league to date. Imagine being able to clearly hear every interaction between players, coaches and referees without noise from the crowd. It would provide an intimate portrait of high-profile games that would not be possible in any other context and will likely never be repeated.
Now for the most unique challenge – where games should be played. To keep further players from contracting the coronavirus, the NBA has to limit team travel as much as possible. Travel does not make sense for two reasons. It is a significant risk to player and staff health. Furthermore, home-court advantage would be negligible with no crowds present.
It is within the realm of possibility for the entirety of the playoffs to take place within one metropolitan area. Major League Baseball recently came up with the idea of having its entire season take place within the various facilities present in Arizona. I believe the NBA should mimic this potential plan for its playoffs to take place in the most practical, safest manner. This will require picking one locale for all games to be played. For this, I propose the San Francisco Bay Area.
This proposal comes with a couple of things in mind. San Francisco, and California as a state, have implemented some of the best curve-flattening policies out of anywhere in the country. With the outbreak currently under control, the bay should be in good shape virus-wise come summertime when the NBA could potentially resume. Furthermore, the bay has enough quality facilities to host an ordeal of the NBA playoffs’ breadth. A host of Division I colleges call this part of the country home. Stanford, UC Berkeley, San Jose State and the University of the Pacific are just some examples of schools with basketball facilities that could host NBA games. The Warriors also just recently opened their new home arena, the Chase Center, located along the bay in downtown San Francisco.
The path to normalcy will be long and strange for everyone – the NBA will be no different. Right now, the league has a lot of work to do in putting together what its return should look like. Few things are certain in our pandemic-stricken world, but there is one thing I can guarantee right now: fans will never take their sports for granted ever again.
This is the opinion of Nick Rossi, a junior AIMS major from Orange, California. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan or email comments to email@example.com.