By all accounts, the NBA has explored every avenue to salvage a resolution to its 2019-20 season, which was suspended on March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. But the hurdles have always been immense.
Now, it seems a prevailing sentiment that the season might be lost is beginning to set in.
"It's been a bad week. I think there was optimism about progress a week ago, and some things that have happened this week have turned it south about what could happen. A big factor was what happened in China where they halted the return of their league, and one of the big reasons is because they really believed if they just tested the player's temperature all the time then it would work, and the Chinese are finding that asymptomatic carriers are causing maybe a second wave in that country. And they have just slammed the brakes on sports.
The talks between the player's union and the league this week — I've talked to both sides of this issue — and it's clear that the NBA is angling to set up a deal that enables them to shut the season down. They don't have to do that yet, and the way they're negotiating they're leaving themselves an option either way. But they are not having talks about how to restart the league. They are having financial talks about what would happen if the season shuts down, and I think there is a significant amount of pessimism right now."
As Windhorst notes, the biggest fulcrum point between the league-wide optimism to "angling to set up a deal that enables them to shut the season down" are recent negative developments in the Chinese Basketball Association. The CBA initially suspended play on Jan. 24, and has since seen a targeted return date of April 15 pushed back into May by government order.
Elsewhere in Asia, the Korean Basketball League of South Korea has already cancelled its season. Japan's B League attempted to resume after suspending play on Feb. 29 to disastrous results. The logsitics of quarantining, administering testing and keeping controlled any environment for basketball to be safely played in are immense — even for countries with a head start on where the United States currently is in the response process.
And from the NBA's perspective, given that the scale of the novel coronavirus' impact in the United States still not fully comprehensible, there comes a point where the focus must shift towards not throwing two seasons into disarray.
Windhorst addressed that point on SportsCenter, as well, but said nothing is set in stone yet:
"They (the NBA) do have runway here, I do think that they could, if they had to, go into August or September to finish this season. But I'm not sure they feel confident about that right now," Windhorst continued. "A big factor is testing. We just don't have the testing. At some point, not only does it have to be a test that's quick and can evaluate whether a player is healthy enough to enter a game, you have to know whether you have the tests available, so that you're not taking them away from people who need them.
"Right now, that's not here. If in six or eight weeks it is here, we can have a different conversation, but right now the league is preparing for that answer to be no."
That last point is a salient one. As long as this pandemic remains a global crisis, sports are simply not the top priority. Frankly, they shouldn't be.