Covid-19’s Effect on the NBA


Jastej Singh, Staff Writer

The NBA is a conglomerate of the best basketball players and is by far the most popular basketball league in the world. Some may say it is also the most difficult league on the planet to get into. An NBA roster holds a maximum of 15 players which means that the NBA is an exclusive club of the world’s best. 

Just like every other league, the NBA’s upcoming season has been heavily affected by Covid-19, causing many changes that would affect games and players. On March 11th, 2020, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz were set to face off until the game was canceled and nobody understood why. It turns out that Jazz Center Rudy Gobert tested positive for Covid-19, which would lead to the immediate suspension of the 2019-2020 NBA season by commissioner Adam Silver. This was a completely unprecedented situation that put the season in jeopardy. After pausing for several months, the NBA decided to resume the season on July 31st by creating an isolation zone at Disney Resorts in Florida otherwise known as a bubble. This bubble ended up being a massive success with zero positive Covid tests throughout the multiple months they were there. The Los Ángeles Lakers ended up winning the championship, which was a great ending to a season that began with the tragic death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant in a helicopter crash near their home in LA.

Additionally, the 2019-2020 NBA season saw the league, especially the players, deal with the many social justice issues relating to Black Lives Matter and police brutality of Black people in America. Almost all of the players knelt during the National Anthem before games to show their support for social justice in America. 

 It was an unusual but truly memorable season, to say the least. The closest situation to this in recent history was the 2011 lockout season where players had a 161-day lockout due to the expiration of the 2005 collective bargaining agreements. This lockout shortened the 2011-2012 season by 16 games, reducing the schedule from 82 to 66 games. Even with that, nothing may ever compare to the 2019-2020 season, a season that will be remembered forever for the countless challenges that the league faced.

 Last year’s troubles have also affected the new NBA season. Because the last season did not end until October 11th, the league had to adjust their normal start date from October to December. This means that the 2020-2021 NBA season will consist of a shortened 72 game season instead of 82 games. However, to keep things interesting, there have been many free-agent signing and blockbuster trades. One trade that shook the league was the Russell Westbrook for John Wall trade, which sent Westbrook from Houston to Washington and Wall to Houston. 

Another interesting storyline is the new star duo in Brooklyn, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving, that will surely elevate the Nets into contenders in the East. Durant and Irving both signed to the Nets the season prior but due to Kevin Durant’s Achilles injury in the finals. He was forced to sit out the 2019-2020 season. Other moves include Chris Paul to Phoenix and Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee, who will help back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo win the East. A shocking move in the West was Montrezl Harrell leaving the Clippers and signing with the Lakers, which comes on the heels of the Clippers blowing a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals and betraying them by going to their rival. In addition to Harrell, the Lakers improved their chances to repeat by signing another “6th Man of the Year” candidate, Dennis Schroeder.

With Lebron James and Anthony Davis, two of the best players in the league, the Lakers repeating seems almost inevitable barring injuries, but the Western Conference is stacked more than ever with star duos in Denver with Jamaal Murray and Nikola Jokic, Utah with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, Portland with Damian Lillard and Cj Mccollum, Phoenix with Chris Paul and Devin Booker, and of course, the other Los Angeles team, the Clips, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. 

Elsewhere in the West, with all the drama in Houston with James Harden wanting out and the injury to Klay Thompson on the Warriors, it will be hard for those two teams to be considered contenders even though Stephen Curry recently had a dazzling career-high 62 point game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Although the odds are stacked against the Warriors, NBC sports states that the Warriors are not to be slept on: “If you’re completely writing off the Warriors as a contender in the Western Conference, that might not be a wise move,” reports Ali Thanawalla. 

Thanawalla continues by quoting ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith to get his take on Curry. “I have never seen someone, a leader, generate the level of selflessness that Steph Curry generates from his teammates,” says Smith. Smith continues to praise Curry and believes that they can pull off a run in the West with him. “I believe, with Steph Curry, could they pull it off? Could they upset? Could they get to a conference finals? Hell yes. I got the [Los Angeles] Lakers as my favorite. I got the [Los Angeles] Clippers as the No. 1 team to watch. But I do not sleep on any team with a healthy Steph Curry and weapons,” says an impassioned Smith.

Many people expect this year to be one of the more entertaining and competitive years in the NBA with new generation stars like Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Zion Williamson, and others pushing veteran players for the spotlight. Even with all this competition around the league, many still believe Lebron and the Lakers will repeat. One of those believers is Rushabh Kamdar, a junior from Paint Branch, who has the Lakers winning the championship by beating out the Nets in the finals. While he picks the Lakers to win, Kamdar knows that the season will be strong and that teams like the Nets are ready to jump to the next level. He states, “The NBA season this year is very interesting regarding what happened in the off-season, but Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have been killing it on the Nets.” 

Luke Sadanala, another junior from PB, believes that the lackluster start to the season for many NBA teams puts the Lakers and Celtics above the rest and places them in the finals to face off as legendary rivals once again.  

One final prediction comes from PB junior Ibrahim Ansari who predicts, “LA’s two teams are close in the Western Conference standings, which was expected, but considering the Clippers choked and blew a 3-1 lead in the second round of last year’s playoffs, Lakers in 6.” It is evident from these three fans – and, really, many other fans out there – that the Lakers are the clear favorites to repeat this year.

The season is still young and as expected the Lakers are atop the league with the best record through 16 games with Lebron as an early MVP favorite. The Nets started shakily with a 9-7 record due to Durant testing positive for Covid and Kyrie simply not showing up for games. But as of recently, James Harden got what he wanted: he was traded to the Nets, giving the Nets the star power of two former MVPs and an electric point guard in Kyrie Irving, making them the favorites to come out of the East. The Suns started 8-5 with the fourth-best record in the West with the promising duo of Devin Booker and Chris Paul helping them make a case to finally make the playoffs after a ten-year drought. 

Just like all sports in the time of a global pandemic, the NBA must deal with Covid-related issues including positive tests and game cancellations. So far this season, many stars such as James Harden, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Bradley Beal have contracted Covid, and the Heat and Celtics game has already been postponed because of it. The teams will continue to face these challenges throughout the season and will hopefully remain healthy enough to perform at their best so that the fans can have a more entertaining year of basketball – even though there may be no fans in the stands.