Photo By | Emanuel Ekström from UNSPLASH.COM
By Beanon Raymonsaint
With the NBA season due to commence on Oct. 19, the league is expecting arenas to be filled again in the upcoming season. There are no plans for the league to travel overseas.
Like many other sports around the world, America’s basketball league was thrown off schedule on March 11, 2020, when the COVID-19 virus was declared a pandemic, coinciding with Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert becoming the first NBA player to test positive.
Utah Jazz Point Guard Donovan Mitchell, who also tested positive at the beginning of the pandemic, has indicated frustration with Gobert because of his lack of awareness and not taking COVID-19 seriously.
Gobert reflected on last season’s COVID-19 microphone incident during an ESPN interview where he “was trying to lighten the mood and be hilarious.” Gobert went out of his way to touch every microphone and recording device in front of him.
In terms of changes within the NBA, tremendous moves this offseason were made such as Point Guard Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards to Los Angeles Lakers, and Point Guard Kemba Walker to the New York Knicks.
The Golden State Warriors did not make the playoffs last season, losing to the Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in tournament. Klay Thompson is one of the greatest shooters ever to play in the NBA and has been out since the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. With him returning this season, the Warriors seem to be a complete team again.
The Milwaukee Bucks are reigning NBA champions, but they lost a key piece in free agency when Small Forward P.J. Tucker broke out and joined the Miami Heat on a two-year, $15 million deal.
Star players remaining loyal to their teams include LaMarcus Aldridge, who was cleared to play after heart concerns related to Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a heart condition that can cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat. During his 2007 rookie season, Aldridge was diagnosed with the disease while playing for the Portland Trail Blazers and currently plays for the Nets.
According to his agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports, “Aldridge returned to the Brooklyn Nets on a one-year, $2.6 million deal.”
With a new season of course comes new challenges, with one challenge being players getting vaccinated. “The NBA will not require anyone to get COVID-19 vaccine, but he believes most players will ultimately choose to do so”, NBA commissioner Adam Silver stated during the All-Star Weekend virtual news conference from Atlanta.
As for unvaccinated players, they will not be paid for missed games and could lose millions in salary. There are few players that have not been vaccinated and have made national headlines such as Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Bradley Beal and more.
Michele Roberts of the NBA Players Association reported over 90% of players are fully vaccinated. “The real story for proponents of vaccination is how we can emulate the players in the NBA,” Roberts stated.
On September 27, Irving was unable to attend Brooklyn Nets Media Day because it was held at Barclays Center. Instead, he joined a Zoom conference call from his home and asked for privacy.
“I know that I’ll be there every day no matter what and just be present for my teammates as one of the leaders on the team and be there for my growing tribe off the court,” said Irving.
According to Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks of ESPN, Irving is unable to participate in home games at Barclays Center, losing $380,000 per game which would become more than $15 million if he does not get vaccinated this season. Irving is under contract for $34.9 million next season.