The NBA is mishandling the winter of omicron and turning its product into a joke

At the start of the 2nd quarter Monday night, the Atlanta Hawks subbed Lance Stephenson, who prior to this month hadn’t played in the NBA given that 2019, into the video game for Chaundee Brown. For the 17,049 fans in participation at State Farm Arena, it would have been completely affordable to ask who that is, considered that Brown had actually just signed with the group hours previously.

On the other hand, Stephenson’s backcourt mate for a stretch was Feline Barber, who has actually bounced around the G League and numerous global groups given that 2016 without getting a shot at the NBA. And for much of the video game, the Hawks’ finest huge male was Malcolm Hill, whose expert profession started in the Philippines in 2017.

Welcome to Adam Silver’s NBA, where the pandemic is running so out of control that it seems like the whole league — from front workplaces to broadcasters to devices men — is a sitting duck for the omicron version to delight in. Never ever mind the competitive problems while groups present G League gamers. Never ever mind the ticket-buying fans whose cash has actually been lost on viewing a sub-standard item while groups have half their routine lineups in COVID-19 procedures. Never ever mind the absurdity of filling indoor arenas with fans throughout this wave while requiring COVID-ravaged groups like the Hawks to keep playing, making sure the break out will continue both within their company and others.

The Hawks signed Wes Iwundu (24) to a 10-day contract before their game last week against the 76ers. The next day, he became the eighth Hawks player to test positive for COVID.

The Hawks signed Wes Iwundu (24) to a 10-day agreement prior to their video game recently versus the 76ers. The next day, he ended up being the 8th Hawks gamer to evaluate favorable for COVID.

It’s not Silver’s fault that this extremely transmissible stress of coronavirus got here in the middle of the NBA season. However he didn’t need to let it be such a stain on his period as commissioner. In the period of a couple of weeks, his league has actually gone from probably the very best in dealing with COVID to among the worst in sports.

“This virus will not be eradicated, and we’re going to have to learn to live with it, and I think that’s what we’re experiencing in the league right now,” Silver stated in an interview with ESPN a week earlier.

However does discovering to live with COVID actually suggest enabling it to ravage your item for a month with break outs rolling from locker space to locker space, not even trying to stop the chain of transmission?

The disappointment of gamers all around the league is easy to understand, especially those who are immunized and asymptomatic and still pushed into the health and wellness procedure due to a favorable test. There’s no excellent response for what the league need to do about that, and ideally in time the infection will end up being something no more bothersome than a winter season cold.

Under the present conditions, however, the NBA’s reaction to omicron has actually been an utter failure. And all you require to do is have a look at the Hawks, who have actually most likely been struck harder than anybody over the previous numerous days.

On Dec. 17, Atlanta generally had a complete lineup for a video game versus the Denver Nuggets besides the gamers who were currently hurt – Bogdan Bogdanovic (ankle) and De’Andre Hunter (wrist). On Dec. 19, Trae Young entered into the COVID procedures. 2 days later on, Danilo Gallinari and Clint Capela followed. The next day, prior to a back-to-back versus Orlando and Philadelphia, the Hawks found out that Kevin Huerter, Lou Williams and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot would likewise be out.

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At that point, it was clear there was a raving break out because locker space and it would have been completely affordable to shut the Hawks down long enough to get a deal with on their COVID scenario or a minimum of permit the very first group of gamers to recuperate.

Rather, due to the fact that the NBA has actually been bound and identified to press through this wave no matter what, the Hawks needed to sign more gamers to 10-day agreements.

Among them, Wes Iwundu, signed up with Atlanta for their Dec. 23 video game in Philadelphia and played 23 minutes. The next day, he ended up being the 8th Hawks gamer to evaluate favorable for COVID. And the 4 gamers who checked favorable in Philadelphia? They needed to take a 12-hour bus trip back to Atlanta due to the fact that they weren’t permitted to fly business and no charter business would take them.

The scenario has actually just worsened from there. Though Clint Capela checked his method back onto the flooring and Young was cleared to play Monday, the Hawks are now approximately 13 gamers presently in the procedure. In fact, only two members of their opening night roster — Cam Reddish and Skylar Mays — have avoided COVID to this point aside from the guys who are injured and currently away from the team. At the rate it’s going in Atlanta, it’s probably only a matter of time for them, too.

“I wish I could tell you it’s over, but it’s not over yet,” general manager Travis Schlenk said Tuesday on an Atlanta radio station. “We wait every morning for the test results to come in and as soon as we get them we roll with the punches whether it be gamers or staff. We’ve lost coaches, equipment managers so we’re hauling bags around. We’ve lost video guys. Certainly the players are who everyone sees and we wish we had them back, but it’s hitting all of us across the organization.”

We all know that COVID-19 is more likely to be a minor inconvenience for NBA players — particularly those who are vaccinated and have had booster shots — than a major threat to their overall health. NBA owners have calculated those risks and decided that it’s more important to keep the business going.

It’s absurd, of course, the crass immorality of making exposure to this virus inevitable for players and their families so that basketball can be played, not to mention the impact of filling arenas every night.

At some point, though, the integrity of the product has to come into play — an issue the NBA has taken a pretty strong stand on when it comes to other topics. The NBA has changed its rules to punish teams for resting star players for national TV games if they’re healthy, it changed the draft lottery to disincentivize teams from tanking and it added play-in games for the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds in each conference so that more teams would take the regular season seriously.

But when it comes to COVID-19, the league is perfectly fine with charging Trae Young ticket prices while fans watch a team full of Lance Stephensons and Cat Barbers.

That doesn’t mean you have to stop the season and wait for omicron to fade away. As Silver said in his ESPN interview, the problem with shutting down the entire league right now is that there’s no obvious standard for bringing it back.

But if the league can’t be bothered to do anything about a team flying around the country with an out-of-control outbreak, then the inevitable conclusion is that the NBA is just fine with every player, coach and official in the league going into protocols over the next month or so no matter how ridiculous every team’s lineup ends up looking at one point or another.

If there was some kind of larger plan here other than playing games for the sake of playing games, maybe it would make sense. But muddling along through the winter one 10-day contract at a time hasn’t just made it look like the NBA waved the white flag on COVID, it turned the basketball item into a punchline.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA’s mishandling of omicron is turning on-court product into a joke

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long included to this report.