Last month, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league would not be able to make any decisions about returning to play until at least May due to the coronavirus pandemic. But with the health crisis still gripping the country as the calendar has turned, things are still up in the air.
It's clear from various reports, including the possibility of, that the league is looking into every idea that would allow it to start playing basketball again. The problem is that even the safest potential solution comes with plenty of risk considering the severity of the virus.
Along with figuring out a location, housing, travel, testing procedures and an actual schedule for play, there's also the difficulty of determining who would be allowed in. Could family members come with players or executives, and how much of a team's coaching and medical staff would be necessary?
And then there's another, more serious issue that many haven't even thought about: the age of many coaches and team staffers. COVID-19 has proven to be much more serious for those over 65 years old, and GMs are reportedly worried about putting them at risk. Via ESPN:
One NBA general manager, speaking on the condition of anonymity, pointed to the age of the team's head coach and others on the staff and said he would feel uneasy about those coaches being present for games, given the factors that place some people at a higher risk for serious issues because of the virus.
"I don't want to put them in harm's way," the general manager said.
Another general manager echoed the point regarding team staffers who might be at a high risk because of underlying health conditions or their age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that adults over 65 are at a higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
"Based on all the information that we have today, probably people over 60 with preexisting conditions can't go, for sure, no matter what their titles are," the second general manager said. "Whether it's a father of the star player or whether it's the general manager of the team, they can't go there."
There are currently three coaches in the league who are 65 or older -- Gregg Popovich (71), Mike D'Antoni (68) and Alvin Gentry (65) -- with Dwane Casey (63), Terry Stotts (62), Rick Carlisle (60), Brett Brown (59), Steve Clifford (58) and Doc Rivers (58) also close to that cutoff. Along with them are a number of other coaches in their 50s, as well as those with preexisting conditions.
Even if the league jumped straight to the playoffs, thereby limiting the number of teams and personnel who would need to arrive at a bubble environment, there would still be plenty of issues. Would they tell the Rockets they have to play games without D'Antoni on the sidelines? Would some teams be unable to have their own team doctors or athletic trainers on site? And what about referees? There are a number of them who are over age 65, or pushing that number.
If so, all of those things would affect the competitive balance in some way or another. Obviously any conclusion to the season at this point isn't going to be perfect, but once you start examining all the little details, it's clear why the league doesn't seem close to making a final decision on finishing the season.