The easy thing to do now is quit. When things get difficult, and they certainly are at the moment, surrender is an option. It generally is the worst one. It surely is now.
The NBA has not played a game since the night of March 11, when four games were contested but a game between the Jazz and Thunder was canceled because all-star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. That was the same day COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. We’ve since gone 53 days without a game, with no clear signal as to when the league would resume playing basketball.
Whenever that is, however, there is no excuse for contesting any season but the one already underway. Even in the unlikely event teams did not again take the court until 2021, they should do so in order to complete the 2019-20 season.
Some league executives and agents, according to CNBC, are pushing for the league to cancel what remains of the suspended season and instead focus on a successful launch to the 2020-21 season. This is the worst possible approach, and the reasoning being posited for cancellation is proof.
Why call off this season?
Money, of course.
CNBC reports some teams believe the revenue available if games were contested and some media rights recovered isn’t sufficient to justify resumption of the season. One surmises not everyone in the league would agree with this. CNBC also cited one player agent who said he is surprised NBA commissioner Adam Sliver hasn’t canceled “because he always errs on the side of caution and doing what’s right.”
Late last month, the top soccer leagues in the Netherlands and France canceled their soccer seasons for 2019-20. Whereas the Dutch did not proclaim an Eredivisie champion and simply called off the year, the French proclaimed Paris-Saint Germain as title winners with PSG owning a 12-point lead over second-place Marseilles.
Although the French approach is superior, neither got it right. The best way to deal with an incomplete competition is to complete it, even if that means intruding on the subsequent event.
Who would care, really, about a November game between the Kings and Suns in the aftermath of a season that was completely abandoned? If that is how long we would need to wait for competitive sport to resume, it should return with the importance of a playoff run or series involving such teams as the Lakers, Bucks, Clippers and reigning champion Raptors.
Reports out of the NHL have suggested the league would be amenable to delaying the start of next season to accommodate the conclusion of this one. This is the proper approach in which is an unprecedented circumstance for everyone.
Certainly, these leagues are businesses, but the product they are selling is meaningful athletic competition. If one were to visit a restaurant — no, wait, let’s stick with things we can all remember doing. If one were to order takeout from a restaurant and, upon arriving home, discover the meal to be half-cooked, there would be no urgency to order again from that establishment.
The NBA and NHL in particular have asked their customers to invest emotion (to say nothing of money spent) into the 2019-20 season. Each has produced wonderful moments, from Damian Lillard’s 61 points for the Blazers against the Warriors on Martin Luther King Day to Mike Zibanejad ripping five goals past the Capitals a week before the shutdown.
What the Bucks accomplished in winning 53 of their first 65 games, what LeBron James has done in reinvigorating the Lakers, what David Pastrnak has done in driving the Bruins forward to 100 points in 70 games — all of this should not be discarded as if it were a used Clorox wipe.
It is not clear when either will be able to play again, although signs are brighter — including the NBA permitting some practice facilities to reopen — that it may be possible at some point in the summer. If that occurs, there won’t be any question what season they’ll be contesting.
Even if they must return later, though, it is most important to finish what they started.