Pausing play would have done the NBA some good

Adam Silver NBA
NBA commissioner Adam Silver
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Like the rest of the sports world — and the world in general for that matter — the NBA is trying to deal with COVID-19 and the highly contagious Omicron variant. But unlike the NHL, the NBA is forging on even as cases continue to pop up throughout the league.

They even had to postpone a pair of games on Wednesday, first, the Nets matchup with Portland was pushed back and hours later the NBA had to cancel the game between Toronto and Chicago. That and the more than 80 players in COVID protocol haven’t been enough for Adam Silver to halt the season.

“No plans right now to pause the season,” Silver said Tuesday in an interview on ESPN. “We have of course looked at all the options, but frankly we are having trouble coming up with what the logic would be behind pausing right now. As we look through these cases literally ripping through the country, let alone the rest of the world, I think we’re finding ourselves where we sort of knew we were going to get to over the past several months, and that is this virus will not be eradicated, and we’re going to have to learn to live with it.

“I think that’s what we’re experiencing in the league right now.”

That certainly doesn’t sound like a man ready to halt play, even as teams have had to search far and wide to find players to fill holes left by those in COVID protocol. After a three-year absence, Joe Johnson was signed to a 10-day contract at the age of 40 by the Boston Celtics, which is just one example of the lengths some teams are having to go to get a full team on the court.

NBA rosters have been pushed to their limits and fans have not gotten their money’s worth when it comes to the product on the court. Despite its competitiveness, last weekend’s game between the Nets and Orlando Magic was a perfect example of that.

It has continued to raise the question: Why hasn’t the league decided to halt play, even just for a short period of time to reassess and allow its clubs to get healthy? If not for the health and the well-being of everyone, how about for the protection of the product on the court that fans pay top dollar to see?

It’s no secret that the NBA wants its Christmas Day slate of games to go on unimpacted by COVID. They’ve amended the restrictions for signing replacement players and have paused three consecutive games on the Nets calendar.

The Nets are one of the 10 teams scheduled to play on the league’s marquee regular-season date. All of those teams have been dealing with COVID, some more severely than others.

If the NBA was as hellbent as it seems on playing these games and protecting the integrity of the game, wouldn’t it have behooved them to step in to allow every team a brief break to contend with the COVID outbreaks and get everyone back to playing shape? It would also have helped to curb the spread from getting out of hand as it seems to have gotten.

Saturday’s 8 p.m. game between the Nets and Lakers is NBA’s most expensive regular-season ticket at an average price of $780, according to TickPick. There’s no guarantee that fans that dish out that money will get to see some of the Nets’ brightest stars for the exorbitant price they’re paying to get into Arena.

Silver may be right about his notion that we’ll have to learn to live with COVID, but the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants nature in which sports leagues have been operating in regards to the COVID spike has only been a detriment to the NBA, the fans, and the players on the court. One that could have been avoided if everyone just took a step back to try and get a handle of the situation.