Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter believes that most NBA players are eager for the season to restart this summer, but said he’s been told by a former teammate that at least one All-Star-caliber player in the Eastern Conference is leery of returning until a vaccine exists to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
“A lot of the players, especially on our [Celtics] team, yes, they do want to get back. They're itching to go out there and play basketball,” Kanter said on this week’s “The Enes Kanter Show” on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.
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"This is my ninth year in the league, I have so many friends on different teams, right? I was actually talking to one of my friends and he said — I’m not going to tell who or which team — but he said, ‘There's so many guys on our team, they're not going to play.' They’re actually in the Eastern Conference, they’re in a playoff spot, and they’re like superstars. Like, if I tell you who it is, you’d go crazy.
I just can’t tell you who that is. But they said, ‘Hey, we're not going to play.’ … Until they find a vaccine, until they find a cure, they’re not going to play.
Kanter didn’t reference whether if it was a former or current All-Star and he has deep ties throughout the league after stops with the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, and Celtics. It’s also important to note that it’s secondhand information and might not definitively reflect whether that concerned star's feelings have changed more recently.
The NBA is still discussing potential return-to-action plans and has not formally outlined a restart plan or how it plans to ensure player safety, something that might diminish any concerns a player might have about a resumption in play. The NBA acknowledged last week that it had started exploratory talks with Disney World about a possible bubble scenario in Orlando.
What it does suggest is that at least a small percentage of NBA players have concerns about the health risks involved with a restart amid this pandemic. Kanter said that, if what he is being told is true, the names would surprise fans.
"I was shocked, though, by the players that didn’t want to play,” said Kanter. "If they don’t play, like, wow, those people are like All-Star players.”