On Tuesday, ESPN reported that the NBA players union had informally text messaged its players to ask a simple question: Do you want to play again this season? Union reps agreed to keep the information confidential, but it certainly puts a wholly different take on the NBA's attempts to restart its aborted season.
Union president Chris Paul spoke with league officials recently about how any season would go forward, according to the report. Commissioner Adam Silver has said they do not need to make a decision until the end of May and that any games would likely be held in one or two locations with all teams kept in quarantine.
Given how much is at stake for the league and its players, the question feels rather ominous. Players have agreed to allow 25 percent of their salaries to be withheld in case games are ultimately canceled as part of their collective bargaining agreement, but with a new contract due up for renegotiation next year, it seems odd to ask if players actually want to come back.
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The NBA and the NHL are, without question, in the most difficult positions of all of the sports leagues. Both were close to the end of their respective seasons when the coronavirus intervened. By the end of May, the NBA would already be heading into the NBA Finals under normal circumstances. Saying they don't have to even make a decision before then means there is little chance they could play any games before July and likely wouldn't be done until the end of August.
That doesn't leave much room for a draft or free agency, never mind training camps which typically open at the end of September. It is logical to think the beginning of the 2020-21 season would have to be pushed back in order to accommodate an abbreviated end to this season's play.
Make no mistake, players want to play and get paid, but the very fact they are posing the question means there have likely been players within the ranks who are less than enthusiastic about cutting short free agency and offseason just to squeeze in playoffs and maybe a few games. It's conceivable some teams might not play any additional games anyway if the league goes straight to the postseason, but does that create an unfair advantage for players who might have to play until right before training camp?
Like all sports, the NBA has a lot of questions it must answer if it wants to resume this season. Apparently, the first one is, "Do you guys wanna play or not?"