What we’re witnessing now in the NBA is just how tough it is to do the right thing. And the league knew it could be this way.
With the Mavericks’ Monday night game against the New Orleans Pelicans postponed because of health and safety concerns, it’s another example of just how tough getting through this season is going to be.
As Rick Carlisle said over the weekend: “We’ve been expecting that this kind of thing was a realistic possibility, and now we’re dealing with it.”
As will every team. The Mavericks have one of the most respected medical staffs in the NBA. They see to it that everything in terms of health is done the right way.
And it still didn’t stop COVID-19 from interrupting the season.
The NBA is in a tough spot. It’s not like the NFL, which plays only 16 regular-season games, has a week (usually) between games and has rosters that number 50-odd players.
Those are all luxuries that give a sports league a fighting chance to get through a season. The NFL had only a few occasions when games were pushed back and they were able to complete the entire regular-season schedule.
The NBA already has reduced its schedule to 72 games (from 82) and even that is looking iffy at the moment.
The league and the representatives of the players’ association met on Monday to see what can be done to amend the medical protocols, hopefully to find a way to put safety first but also still have a season.
In some ways, the NBA was betting on the come for this season. The vaccine was on the way when the decision was made to play a schedule starting on Christmas. But a new strain was on the way, too.
In a month or two, the landscape could look very different.
But clearly, the NBA is doing what needs to be done. You can’t mess around with the health of people, whether it’s a player making a bajillion dollars or support staff and workers at arenas.
And this virus is not going away.
The NBA knew this going in. Teams were going to have to deal with shorthanded situations, games that get postponed and stretches when practices would not be allowed.
If you think about it, so far the league has been lucky. Nobody associated with any team has ended up in the hospital with the coronavirus – at least not that we know of.
So teams are having to adapt. We heard Tim Hardaway Jr. say weeks ago that whatever teams adjust and deal with the inevitable adverse situations are going to find themselves in a much more palatable spot come April and May.
In that respect, the Mavericks have done just fine so far. They are 5-4 and are likely to get Kristaps Porzingis on the active roster as soon as they resume playing games, or shortly thereafter. He was listed as questionable for Monday until the game was scrapped.
The Mavericks have enough players to play, according to reports from The Dallas Morning News and others. Even without Porzingis, they were down to 10 players (plus two two-way players). That’s still enough to play the game. But the NBA is taking contact tracing very seriously.
And that’s a good thing.
The Mavericks also are knocking out a lot of road games at a time when there aren’t any fans in most arenas. Who knows if spectators will be in the stands later in the season.
The Mavericks have roped off sections of seats at American Airlines Center, leaving a couple seats open, then blocking off three or four seats. So clearly, the team is ready for whenever fans are allowed back in the building.
For now, we’re left with no guarantees. The Mavericks have at least four players who were put into the health and safety protocols for at least some period of time. All could return soon or be gone for awhile. And remember, the Mavericks in theory play five of their next six games on the road, where things are a little more difficult to control.
Interruptions to the schedule are going to happen in this most unusual season, which is turning into an even more turbulent ride than the end of last season in the bubble.
But it’s the way things have to be, for now.