The NBA was among the first sports leagues to suspend its season due to COVID-19. Now, the league hopes to return. The NBA and its union reached a tentative agreement involving a “bubble” for players and staff at Orlando’s Disney World. Since the plan went public, though, some NBA players have expressed concerns about restarting under the conditions. Among the big names who may skip the restart is Carmelo Anthony.
The NBA’s ‘bubble’ plan
Not all details of the league’s plan have been made public. But ESPN reports that the basics will include starting training camp in mid-July. The league would then resume play with 22 teams completing several regular-season games before the playoffs, which would be the regular format.
The concerning part of the plan is keeping the teams isolated within their bubble. This could lead to an environment the players are not used to. No visitors would be allowed within the bubble until after the first playoff round — almost seven weeks after training camps open. This is a long time for players to be away from family and friends.
Carmelo Anthony might skip the season?
Anthony initially expressed excitement about the league returning to play, according to CBS Sports, saying his Blazers team “want[s] to go in and compete.” As time has gone on, however, Anthony is more hesitant to participate in the league’s Orlando return.
“As far as actually playing and going back down into Orlando, I’m still up in the air a little bit,” he said more recently, citing a lack of “all the details” regarding the plans for the NBA to return. He went on to say that until players have that information, “It’s hard to just commit to that 100%.”
The Blazers’ playoff chances
If Anthony decides not to participate when the NBA resumes its season, it would hurt the Trail Blazers‘ chances of making the playoffs. As of the season’s suspension, they are in a three-way tie for the ninth seed in the Western Conference.
If the nine-seed finishes the season within four games of the eighth seed, the two teams would have a play-in scenario, with the No. 9 seed earning the conference’s final playoff spot with two wins over the eighth seed. Without Anthony, Portland’s chances of holding on to the nine seed and ultimately making the playoffs go down considerably.
An asterisk on the season?
Anthony is one of the first stars to express his skepticism for the NBA’s plan and intimate that he may not play when the season resumes, but he certainly won’t be the last. If big-name players like Anthony forego the rest of the season, how would it affect the history books? There will already be an asterisk on this season, regardless of what team wins the championship.
By the time the league resumes, there will have been a break of about four months without basketball and a different finish to the regular season than usual. That will call into question the legitimacy of the season and the eventual champion.
The questions will only get bigger if the league has to play the end of the regular season and its postseason without stars, who are sitting out for health and safety concerns, or other reasons. While Anthony isn’t as good as he was in his prime, he is still a big name that would draw mainstream media attention if he decides not to join the rest of the league in Orlando.