Beginning as early as Monday this week, each of the 22 selected NBA teams began testing their players, coaches and staff who would be in the 35-person traveling party to Orlando for evidence of COVID-19.
All of the Suns were tested, and reportedly (thanks to Duane Rankin of the Republic for sourcing and sharing) a pair of Suns players came back positive. Those players were, reportedly, immediately asked to put themselves in isolation until cleared twice more with negative tests. A good assumption would be that the players were asymptomatic, or they would not have shown up for testing and the start of mini-camp.
Voluntary workouts on Monday were reportedly canceled, but then scheduled to resume starting Tuesday. Small groups of players and coaches are now allowed to train and play together, but full-team workouts — large enough for pickup games — are not yet allowed by the league as it inches closer and closer to the Orlando bubble.
I say all of this as “reportedly,” because the Phoenix Suns made no official announcements and the workouts, being held at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, are not open to public or media. So all we have are sourced, unnamed, leaks.
Due to HIPAA laws that require employers to shield the personal health information of individuals from the public, unless the person provides written consent or make it public themselves, the Suns have been tight-lipped.
Other teams are also keeping things under wraps. Reporters, national and local, are fighting and clawing for information but laws are laws so the leaks are few and far between.
Still, reports have surfaced.
Two unnamed Suns players. Two unnamed Kings players. It’s a pattern. When there have been leaks, it’s usually that a pair of teammates are ‘positive’ for the virus this week. Nikola Jokic, Malcolm Brogdon, Buddy Hield are a few that have outed themselves on social media. All have promised to get clear and join their teams in Orlando in two weeks, once their quarantine is over.
Across the country, it seems that any time a group of athletes get together a few have later come back as positive for the virus.
We all knew this would happen.
It’s contagious. Almost certainly not deadly to the world’s greatest athletes, but much more likely to be deadly to those around them when they go home. Karl-Anthony Towns’ mom passed away already from the virus. His dad was lucky to survive. More than 123,000 Americans have died of complications exacerbated by COVID-19 — a respiratory virus that attacks the lungs — in just the past four months. FOUR MONTHS.
And it’s not slowing down just because of the summer heat. Hospitals in the hardest-hit states — Florida, Arizona and Texas to name a few — are running at 80-90% capacity right now. No, Virginia, the virus doesn’t just go away if we stop looking for it. Hospitals are filling up regardless.
Whatever you think about mask-wearing, or whether you believe the numbers are overblown or underblown, the fact is that the virus is spreading unabated. And there will almost certainly be a lot of NBA players who test positive over the next 3-4 months. I don’t think 20% is a high number. It might be low.
But the game will go on. The NBA appears to want to play this like Zipps Sports Grills in the valley — don’t shut down, just replace the sick with a healthy person and continue on.
There will be games in Orlando. The Phoenix Suns franchise will play at least eight more games this season. Twenty one other teams will play too. There will be a champion crowned.
You will probably see a lot more of J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford in the next three months than you ever wanted. Imagine J-Crossover hitting the 20-foot step-back game-winner to give the crown to a team that signed him only three months prior as an emergency option.
Why try? Because a billion dollars is on the line. And potentially a disastrous financial outlook for 2021 too, if the NBA can’t figure out how to play despite a few positives for COVID-19.
And almost certainly, no matter how many players disappear into quarantine for two-week stints, none of them will die. The death rate among those in the players’ demographic is near-zero. Sure, some will get really sick. There will be at least one story of a player that needs months to truly recover.
But the beat goes on. And that beat is green-colored, hand-held by a small few over-privileged men who can’t stand the idea of making less profit this year than last year. And if these men have to tighten their belts, you by golly better believe they will pass that burden down to the team staffs, players (in the way of pay cuts) and, eventually, you the fans (in the way of incredibly high prices for tickets, parking and concessions). One way or another.
My question is: how many of these rich owners will embed themselves in Orlando with their teams, subject themselves to the same risks day in and day out? And no I don’t mean to magically show up at game time, socially distanced, to watch their charges play a game in an empty stadium, only to disappear again after the buzzer.
And the next question is: how many of these players, coaches and staffers who put themselves and their families and loved ones in danger this summer will be forced to take pay-cuts in future years because the owners will re-fill their OWN pockets before anyone else?
Here they come, Orlando! The grand experiment is soon to be underway. The multi-year one, I mean.