The NBA season looks completely normal between the lines, but it just takes a brief glance into the background of a broadcast to be reminded what is going on this season. Fans are few and far between. Arenas are mostly empty. And, most importantly for the league as they try to play a season outside a bubble during a pandemic, benches are thin as players and coaches test positive for coronavirus or come into close contact with those that have. If things keep going this way, the league will have to pause the season, and is already reportedly considering doing so. The question is, then what?
It's been a long couple of months since the NBA completed their Disney bubble postseason. It was a model for everyone. They showed America the kind of money, resources and seriousness that was required to completely shut out COVID-19. They took it seriously. They put on a great show. They did everything the NFL and MLB refused and the only thing that ever put the postseason in danger was the f--ked up country the bubble existed in, but they even weathered that storm.
It was perfect, but it just wasn't tenable for a full season. Players and coaches are human beings with families. Games needed to be back in home cities. They needed fans. They needed to stop the revenue bleed make up some of the money that was lost when the pandemic stopped the '19-'20 season. They had to do it this way or not do it at all.
It's what the NFL did. They put on a season and powered through despite positive tests and close contact exposures and finished their regular season on time and then played a postseason game with a head coach locked in his basement.
This is where the NBA diverges. With such small rosters and so much close contact, they have to consider pausing to get past this early season outbreak. But what comes next? The NBA isn't going to jump the line and have players vaccinated as things continue to deteriorate and the country fails to effectively distribute the vaccine. These very real humans that make up the NBA still very much live in America. A new record was set on Friday when 300,000 people tested positive and that was just two days after what will definitely turn out to be a superspreader event at the Capitol.
The NBA is now like the rest of us. Just trying to make it through without anyone getting sick. That will be a major part of Donald Trump's legacy. He wanted Americans to learn to live with coronavirus and eventually everyone did. No matter how sick or inconvenienced, it touched every American's life and all the poorest, most screwed people got for it was $1,800.
The NBA tried to do it the right way and it worked, but it wasn't realistic to continue being completely safe. Not when no one else was. Everyone else had to pretend this was supposed to be the new normal so they went back to their arenas and got back on airplanes and now the new normal has come for them and it's apparent this doesn't work, but it doesn't matter. Just keep playing when you can and eventually things might go back to the old normal in another year or two. It's not the NBA or NFL's fault. It's just the only f--ked up path forward.