The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are currently in the midst of talks to agree on a plan that would allow players to opt out of the remainder of the 2019-20 season without consequences.
This new development comes on the heels of growing hesitancy on the part of a faction of players who aren’t eager to be part of the 22-team restart in what would be a “bubble” in Orlando, Fla.
Players have been holding conference calls over recent days to voice their reservations, including health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic and more.
According to reports, up to 50 players have participated in those conference calls. However, no official petition or request has been delivered on behalf of any group of players wanting to sit out for the rest of the season.
The source of this new development is largely from players on teams that don’t have realistic championship aspirations. Those players are beginning to ask whether isolating themselves in a bubble is worth the reward.
According to the current return-to-play plan, players would be unable to host visitors inside the Orlando bubble until after the first round of playoffs — almost seven weeks after the beginning of training camp.
In addition to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, players have begun voicing their reservations regarding the inability to see family for nearly two months, the inability to leave the Disney World Resort campus, and the implications surrounding the current social injustice protests.
NBA’s 22-Team Restart Plan
Some of the recent hesitation on the part of a group of players likely stems from the fact that not all 22 teams to be included in the restart have a legitimate shot at contending for a title. In fact, six of those teams are currently outside playoff positioning.
However, the league is set on returning with eight regular-season games that will lead to a play-in series between the eighth and ninth seeds in each conference, should those No.9 seeds be within four games of the final playoff team. From there, a 16-team playoff would resume.
Not even those 16 teams feel like they have a shot at reaching the NBA Finals. Three teams in the Eastern Conference — Brooklyn, Orlando, and Washington — and six teams from the Western Conference — Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, and Phoenix — would head to Orlando despite currently owning losing records.
And while an up-and-coming team like the Pelicans may be eager to get its young team, including rookie Zion Williamson, playoff experience, players on lower-ranked teams are having trouble finding a good reason to come back for what feels like a run of purposeless games.
At this late stage in the season, it also feels like every individual award is already decided.
Favorites for Top NBA Honors
While the likes of Anthony Davis or James Harden have made pushes for the NBA MVP Award throughout the season, the race has long been between two players: Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James.
At this point, Giannis’ lead is likely too much to overcome in the short time that remains. With odds of -950, Giannis is a heavy favorite over +410 LeBron. No other player holds odds better than +5000.
We were robbed of an exciting Rookie of the Year race by the coronavirus pandemic. Rather than watching Ja Morant battle it out against Zion Williamson, Morant was able to run away with the award at -3000.
Perhaps the most interesting race of any individual award comes down to Giannis versus Davis for Defensive Player of the Year. Once again, Giannis is the favorite with odds of -140. However, a strong performance from Davis, who owns +105 odds, could be enough to overcome that relatively short gap.