The NBA is having a tough time holding a full, uninterrupted season during the middle of a pandemic. As expected. It was never going to be easy. Players were going to test positive for COVID-19. It was a statistical assurance. Games would have to be canceled or postponed in the pursuit of caution and preventing widespread outbreaks within organizations and from team to team. Even with strict off-the-court rules for players, outbreaks and positive tests are the consequences of doing business during such a time.
And yet! The league and the NBAPA have decided that it is, in fact, safe and smart to hold an All-Star game this year. The news became official this morning.
On an extremely related note, De'Aaron Fox was taking questions after yet another outstanding performance in a victory over the Boston Celtics last night. He was asked what he thought about the possibility of an All-Star game being held this year. He did not mince words and expressed his opinion that it was a "stupid" idea. Aptly, concisely, and correctly.
Fox is also right to note that money does make the world go round, and it's no less true when it comes to sports. The NBA, like every other American sports league and basically every other business in the world, has lost a whole lot of money over the last 10 months due to the pandemic. Holding the All-Star Game and all the advertising revenue that comes with it is certainly one way to help recoup a small portion of those lost funds.
But consider, for just a brief moment, the fact that the very best players in the NBA will all be gathering in one city for a game. Consider that the NBA's protocols have not been airtight because it is impossible to prevent every single player and employee from getting coronavirus. Then consider what might happen if, by some unfortunate circumstance, there is a COVID-19 breakout in the locker rooms of the All-Star teams.
That's the top 20-ish players in the NBA, out for a minimum of 10 days and up to two weeks. The league would be forced to pause the season, something everyone has apparently been loathe to do even when a team like the Grizzlies misses four games in a row because of an outbreak. If they could not or would not do that, the quality of the on-screen product would drop through the basement as the best teams in the league stumble through games without their top options All the NBA's carefully-laid plans for the second half of the season would be scattered to the wind.
There is no guarantee that will happen, of course. There has not been an outbreak so severe within any one team this season that more than one or two players test positive for COVID-19. Even the aforementioned Grizzlies had games postponed because of contact tracing rather than an abundance of positive tests.
But there is a chance. Even if the All-Stars stick to protocol in a strict fashion and literally do not leave their rooms except to go play in the game, someone could test positive. They might practice or hang out with their All-Star teammates before being notified. Then it's a butterfly effect of superstars going into contact tracing, some of whom might test positive, then the people those players hung out with need to do the same thing, on and on. I don't need to explain it to you. We've been living this for almost a year.
The NBA is willing to risk all that to recoup a small fraction of the money they've lost over the last year. The risk-reward scale is, uh, not particularly balanced here, folks. Fox sees that. I see that. Everyone else sees that. What does the NBA and NBAPA see that we don't?