While the NBA is still hoping to finish the 2019-20 season and eventually crown a champion, that's not something that can happen at the drop of a hat. Even if the league is ultimately cleared to resume by health officials, the players will still need an adequate buffer of time in order to get back into game shape, as many of them don't have hoops in their homes and thus haven't played any sort of basketball in well over a month.
In order to avoid injuries upon return to action, players would need several weeks of prep time -- at least two or three -- before they could get into games, according to Oklahoma City Thunder star guard Chris Paul, who serves as the National Basketball Players Association president.
"I'm just letting you know -- and I don't think the league would do it anyway -- but if they were like, 'Hey, you got two weeks, and then we're going,' that's not going to happen," Paul said of a potential return to action during a conference call with media members, via ESPN. "That's not going to happen. Whatever the amount of time is, just know that players will have the input, the say-so, because we're the ones playing. That comes first. We don't ever want to put guys in a situation where their injury risk is higher than ever before."
Paul pointed to the fact that some players have access to courts and gyms, while others don't. This dynamic would initially create an imbalance upon a return to action, and thus, an adequate amount of prep time would be needed to level the playing field.
"I get what we're dealing with right now, a lot of hypotheticals, but I don't know," Paul said in regards to exactly how long players from across the league's landscape would need to get back into playing shape. "This is the thing with having 450 players in the league and being in a situation like this, where some guys have access to weight rooms, some guys don't. Some guys have access to facilities where they can train or do this or can run. That's why, whatever happens -- and I say this, and I mean this -- we always go back to the players."
Paul also pointed out that while everyone involved wants to get back to playing ball, the virus itself is in sole control of a return timetable, as the health of the team staff, players, and fans is paramount.
"We just want to play," Paul said. "We're trying to figure out what that looks like. Right now, I'm just focused on playing, playing in some form or fashion... This is a situation where no one knows. The virus is actually in complete control. I seriously tried to answer things the best I could, but there are things where it's not like I've got the answers and I'm just not telling you.
"There's a lot of hypotheticals out there," Paul continued. "And that's great that everyone's brainstorming, and it's nice that everybody wants us to play, but I think the safety of the players, their families, fans, everyone, all that comes first."
While a return to basketball-related activities this season would be great, it's obviously secondary to the health and safety of the teams, players and fans, as Paul stated. The NBA will certainly explore all possible avenues for a return, but the situation is fluid, and something that the league can't control. Like everyone else, they just have to hope that the coronavirus can be curbed in a timely manner.