By the time the 2019-2020 NBA season resumes in July, the COVID-19 pandemic will have kept players off the court for more than four months. For some players, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as they won’t be seen by fans until the 2020-2021 season begins in the fall.
As of June 26, 2020, 16 players had tested positive for the coronavirus, about five percent of the 302 who were tested on June 23.
As news about positive tests continued to break in the days prior to the league’s official statement, concerns seemed to rise across the league. Players started to announce that they would sit out of the action when the NBA took over Orlando in July, and the dominos began to fall.
While many fans will assume players are sitting out due to the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19, the reasons aren’t that simple in most cases. In fact, the disease isn’t the prime justification for some, especially with bigger fish to fry when it comes to upcoming months or years in their respective careers.
So, why would a player sit out of the league’s bubble when seeding games begin on July 30? Let’s dive in and find out:
Health concerns specifically related to COVID-19
The first reason is arguably the most simple of the bunch: A player is concerned about getting the coronavirus themselves, or the impacts the disease could have on other family members.
Lakers guard Avery Bradley won’t be on the court when his teammates begin their push towards the NBA Finals, telling ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that his son’s past respiratory issues make it a tricky situation to maneuver through.
“As committed to my Lakers teammates and the organization as I am, I ultimately play basketball for my family,” Bradley told ESPN. “At a time like this, I can’t imagine making any decision that might put my family’s health and well-being at even the slightest risk.”
Fans will have to get used to the fact that cautiousness is a good enough reason to stay off the court, and could become a common occurrence long after the end of this year’s playoffs.
Spending time with family
Family is everything, and some players are taking that idea to heart as it relates to the resumption of the 2019-2020 season in Orlando.
Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein, who joined the team after spending much of the year with the Warriors, is reportedly sitting out as he and his partner await a newborn child in July, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Meanwhile, Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza will be prioritizing visitation time with his son over any time on the court, according to ESPN’s Wojnarowski.
Wojnarowski reported that Ariza “has been involved in a custody case over his 12-year-old son, and the mother’s decision to grant a court-ordered, one-month visitation period during the league’s quarantine of teams in Orlando, Florida, led Ariza to choose his parenting responsibilities over competing with the Blazers in the 22-team restart.”
Some will stay away from the bubble in Florida to keep their loved ones safe from the virus. Others, however, will simply want to use the time that would’ve generally been their offseason to catch up with those family members who they rarely see during the year, instead.
Prioritizing free agency
Some players, whether the pandemic hit this year or not, would have already had some worries about their futures due to pending free agency.
Wizards forward and upcoming free agent Davis Bertans has two ACL injuries under his belt already, and will reportedly sit out “as a preventive measure,” per ESPN. With a relatively weaker free agency class set to take center stage whenever the offseason truly starts, Bertans could be a star to watch out for in upcoming months. So, it seems justified that the 27-year-old likely doesn’t want to risk anything as a result.
The same goes for players who are already free agents, like center DeMarcus Cousins. According to The Athletic’s Charania, Cousins will reportedly sit out in order to “continue rehab for a full return in 2020-21.”
After a long period of time away from the court, it makes sense that stars heading into the offseason with some financial priorities wouldn’t want to risk a big payday for a title that some will put an asterisk next to anyway.
Recovering from injuries
While some stars will stay away from the league’s return because they’re trying to avoid injuries, others will want to stay safe and avoid reaggravating an existing injury.
Players like Cousins come to mind, along with his former Warriors teammate Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving, Durant’s new teammate on the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets were in the conversation throughout the hiatus to surprise fans upon the league’s return because of the potential for players like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to come back and compete in the postseason. But, rather than push forward and risk their futures, both will be sitting out when the NBA comes back in July.
Durant told ESPN’s Marc J. Spears that his “season is over” and that he doesn’t “plan on playing at all,” while Irving reportedly implied on a National Basketball Players Association call at the beginning of June that he could possibly rejoin his teammates as an inactive player in Orlando.
There are a variety of reasons for players to stay away from Orlando when the NBA resumes in July, and some may be more forthcoming in that justification than others.
In many cases, however, it isn’t a cookie-cutter situation, just like the pandemic itself. In the end, fans will just have to get accustomed to the new normal as it relates to the NBA and players’ appearances on the court.