Covid Trouble Outside the Bubble

The NBA did a magnificent job of restarting after a four-month hiatus last season due to the Covid-19 pandemic gripping the nation and the world. It was a big buy-in for the athletes but most of them willingly obliged and the fans got to see playoff basketball in the fall.

But this season the league doesn’t have the luxury of an insular world in which to neatly fit their players without any fans in the stands or physical interaction with the outside world. No, that experiment worked fine last year but it was a one-and-done scenario that cannot be repeated for an entire regular season, as well as playoffs.

And now we are in the thick of the winter, a time when doctors and analysts predicted would be the largest outbreak of the virus due to the cold weather. Teams have been decimated by players contracting the virus, in addition to those who must stay away due to contact tracing protocols. The reverberating effects have meant the Philadelphia 76ers had to play with only seven available players when they battled the Denver Nuggets earlier this month.

Philadelphia head coach, Doc Rivers, was not pleased with policy and saw his team drop three straight after posting the best record in the conference before the outbreak.

“We were not happy with the way that went down,” Rivers told reporters after the 115-103 loss to the Nuggets. “We don’t understand why we played that game.”

Recently the Boston Celtics had two of their games put on ice and more postponements are quite likely around the league. Reports are that NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, is considering a league-wide pause but does that merely delay, not only the games but the inevitable?

If the NBA designated the last two weeks of January as a temporary shutdown to allow teams with Covid concerns to recover, would the restart in February be any different? Is it any warmer, is the virus less likely to spread because Valentine’s Day is on the horizon – come to think of it, that would only increase the spread – or will all the athletes be inoculated by then?

None of which is true, of course, which begs the question – why shut the league down when the problems which plague it will still manifest once it reopens two weeks later? Now, if Silver is considering a much lengthier shutdown then perhaps that has merit but it will also cause grave economic strife.

NBA spokesman, Mike Bass, wrote this week, “We anticipated that there would be game postponements this season and planned the schedule accordingly. There are no plans to pause the season, and we will continue to be guided by our medical experts and health and safety protocols.”

Kevin Krim, founder, and CEO of advertising metrics data firm EDO stated, “It (the shutdown’s economic impact early in the season) won’t be a huge hit. But if you get later into the season, it starts to get too complicated, and there’s going to be an economic impact. These are big corporations that have quarterly targets.”

Celtics Maturing

The C’s are leading the Eastern Conference, and yet, have still been without the services of savvy veteran star, Kemba Walker. It won’t be long before the former Charlotte Hornet, whom Boston signed in free agency last season, will be suiting up and contributing.

If we take a look at some of the best online sportsbooks in the industry, the NBA lines are dealing the Celtics (+600) as the fourth choice, behind the Nets (+275), Bucks (+275), and 76ers (+500) to win the East. That’s not a bad bet this early on as this group has chemistry to spare.

And don’t look now but Boston’s No. 3 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Jaylen Brown, is morphing into the burgeoning superstar most predicted he would eventually become. Brown’s tenure with the Green has been mainly positive but his inability to break through to that next level has irked the Boston faithful. However, from the looks of him this season, those growing pains might be over as he is playing on a par with fellow young stud, Jayson Tatum, who was chosen in the identical spot a year later by the Celtics.

Assuming the Celtics get back on track, and on the court, the week ahead shows Boston tipping off against the Magic on Friday after three consecutive postponed games before welcoming the Knicks to town on Sunday, January 17th. But then the fun really begins when the C’s tangle with the Sixers in back-to-back meetings on January 20th and 22nd.