OKC Thunder: Decision on return expected within 4 weeks

OKC Thunder: Basketball on the hardcourt (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder: Basketball on the hardcourt (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder and peers learned the NBA expects to make a decision on returning within the month and also polled players on their comfort level.

Since the March 11th game between the OKC Thunder and Utah Jazz was postponed and league action subsequently suspended the NBA has kept moving their decision date on a return. That situation seems to have been resolved with Adam Silver stating he expects to have a definitive answer within the next two to four weeks.

Both owners and players held discussions with the powers that be including the league office and the NBPA within the last week. Owners feel more positive about a return while the players were asked to respond to their comfort level for returning to finish out the season.

All 30 teams are being queried on the subject which would seemingly indicate the hope for a return to regular season play. That’s not to say the association has made a decision on regular-season games, number of postseason games, or a play-in tournament.

Yet, playing some regular-season games makes financial sense. As we’ve touched on prior the league will already be taking a financial hit with the loss of fan attendance. Fans account for 40 percent of league revenues so this is no small hit. Most teams still needed to play five regular-season games in order to collect on local TV contracts within their individual markets.

Related Story. 5 Key takeaways from players Q and A with Silver. light

Differing reports surfaced on the players’ comfort levels. Two factors are likely to take precedent in the players’ thoughts. For teams who know they won’t be advancing to the postseason how motivated will they be to play in a bubble possibly isolated from their families for an extended period? Therefore, it would be interesting to find out if the players voting not to come back are the lottery teams.

Adrian Wojnarowski indicated in his article on the poll players were keen to return and play both regular and playoff games.

"The poll gave a clear sense that players would like to not only get to the playoffs, but also resume at least some of the regular season, a person familiar with the results of the poll told the AP."

The other key factor is logically safety and specifically testing. T.I. noted from the beginning testing (and more specifically rapid response tests) would always be the key factor to a season return.

While the league could definitely use an outside lab to acquire the tests they’ll need by the time they return it’s not something Silver would be comfortable doing if the public still didn’t have access to the tests they need.

One interesting point is each state will have its own test requirements. The NBA massaged the wording they originally used from “all tests needed” to “all tests needed for front line workers”. That might seem like a minor change but that is a major difference.

Also of note, recalling when the NBA suspended play the Magic and Lakers were two of the clubs who completed full testing of their players via private labs. With the two venues for the bubble isolation being Walt Disney World in Florida and Vegas in California this could be one of the deciding factors since they know there are private labs available.

More from Thunderous Intentions

Moving forward there are still many questions to be answered and situations to resolve. Just like the deadline for a cutoff decision kept changing, so too will the dynamics regarding what is involved for the league to return. This is an entirely foreign environment the NBA is trying to adapt to and as such it’s natural every new piece of information affects decisions.

The NBA is the most high risk of the four major sports given the physicality coupled with what the players wear. While the NFL and NHL are contact sports they wear helmets, face shields, and other than their hands are fully covered. Conversely, NBA players wear shorts and no sleeves making the players the most exposed and at risk.

That’s why the NBA will be paying close attention to the other sports leagues who return and monitoring their success. Particular attention will be paid to what happens when or if a player tests positively. The current plan is to quarantine a player in that situation and complete frequent testing on players they were exposed to the most.

If there is one certainty, it is the continual updates that will be required even during the two to four week period Silver anticipates a decision being made. Every success and failure will impact the choices to be made. That more than anything has become clear over the past two months.

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