NBA: League Is Playing Itself By Insisting On Playing In Bubble

By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)

It’s as simple as this, Aaron Rodgers.

If you no longer want any part of an organization whose general manager has begun to dig your grave even as you continue to withstand the rigors of professional quarterbacking with flying colors, then you should most certainly look for a change of scenery. You see how well things are working out for Tom Brady after he ended his longterm relationship with New England, right?

He found greener — and far warmer — pastures in Tampa Bay. Now while it may be tempting to move across country where friendlier climates and your childhood favorite 49ers play, remember, that team blew its chance with you years ago. Besides, the coldest dish of revenge you could serve that bay green and cheese gold-colored front office would be aligning yourself with its sworn enemy, the Chicago Bears.

That’s how you retaliate against Brian Gutekunst, who had the audacity to trade up to select Jordan Love in last year’s NFL Draft, and head coach Matt LaFleur, who was a little too eager to co-sign that move and chose Mason Crosby’s leg, not your invaluable arm, when it mattered most. After all, when you have a chance to really stick it to your ex you don’t date a stranger. You round the bases with the best friend.

Think about it.

Not only would you move from the hallowed ground at Lambeau Field to that at Soldier Field, but you’d also go from being one of the city’s most hated visitors to one of its most beloved residents a la Dennis Rodman.

Plus, you love it here. Or at least that’s what I took from how you talked about the chills you feel before game time listening to both Jim Cornelison belt out the national anthem and Bears fans equally resounding reaction. “Those tingles over the years have made that place a really special environment,” you said in December. “And I do have a lot of respect for the organization, the fan base, their team.”

And we for you, albeit begrudgingly.

But you can’t really blame us for that though, can you? I mean, you did author a 35-16 beat down with your 240 yards and four touchdowns just a few days after speaking so highly of practically all things Chicago. Not to mention that was the 10th victory of your career in the Windy City in the 13 times you’ve played here. Hard feelings are even harder to shake when they’re mixed with the envy of watching your arch-rival swap one hall-of-fame signal caller for another while our carousel of mediocrity at that position continues to turn nonstop.

You can change that. You can rip that ride from its lousy rails. It’ll take some convincing, maybe even a little acting on your part. You’re pretty believable in those State Farm commercials. How good are you at faking or threatening retirement?

As far as compensation goes, tell Gutekunst we can offer the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and future first-round picks in each of the next two as well. There figures to be a nice crop of blue chip offensive lineman this summer. Something for him to keep in mind given his franchise left tackle, David Bakhtiari, will be playing the rest of his career on a surgically-repaired knee. Also, considering how Kevin King had two touchdowns scored on him and drew a crippling defensive pass interference penalty that essentially robbed you of the chance to play in your second Super Bowl, it seems an upgrade at cornerback is in order. We’ve got a promising one in Jaylon Johnson he might be interested in, too.

If that package doesn’t move him, perhaps we can throw in the tag-and-trade of Allen Robinson. We’d much rather have the two of you here, but if we must sacrifice our most lethal offensive threat then so be it. You’re that special to us. Even today, just a handful of months from beginning your 17th year in the NFL.

Look. Breaking up is hard. There’s no two ways about it. But once you finish sopping up the best comfort food our city has to offer, you’ll adjust. You’ll see that while the sum of the Bears’ current weapons don’t yet compare to that of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan, you’ve had far less to work with in your career than David Montgomery, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.

None of this is to say you’d find the type of immediate success that Brady’s found with the Buccaneers. What it does mean is your arrival would, quite frankly, send an already rabid fanbase over the moon; push our mockery of a front office into credible standing; and our overworked defense into more favorable situations.

If nothing else, how satisfying would it be to flip the league’s oldest rivalry on its head, to force Gutekunst and LaFleur to forever rue the day they chose Love?

In Green Bay you had to escape the shadow of Brett Farve — who, against conventional wisdom, was cast out to the Jets of all teams after reaching near-deity status as a Cheeshead, his association with the Packers being the only one that can rival yours post-Bart Starr. Here, in Chicago, you’d cast a shadow as far as our franchise’s list of starting quarterbacks is long before you even threw your first pass in dark navy and orange.

The offseason is long. Our patience for a player your caliber has been woefully longer.

Just give it some thought.

Ok?

Every controllable factor has been identified and accounted for, billions of dollars are at stake and an unsolicited blessing has been recieved from the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert.

With all this going for it, you’d think that the National Basketball Association should be gung-ho about its plans to restart and conclude its 2019-20 season. You may also think that this column is going to co-sign said plans — you’d be wrong on both counts.

There’s a vocal group of NBA players, most notable among them Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, who have a distinct fear that a resumption of play will somehow undermine the spectacular momentum for racial equality propelled by worldwide protests and goaded on by recurring police brutality that led to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

It could be very realistic that those two, or another selection of players, decline attending the scheduled contests to take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex on the Walt Disney World campus in Orlando next month.

Anyone who feels that way should be free to back their commitment to social change, but it should’t be a requirement for any NBA player, regardless of race, political affiliation or willingness to rep for the culture.

Howard, in particular could be commended for even entertaining the idea — as an Los Angeles Laker he has an exceptional chance at capturing his first-ever championship — but what are we saying if we think the hearts and minds of those individuals to whom the Black Lives Matter campaign is powered by will be stopped in their tracks by the mere chance of seeing new basketball played at a time when the playoffs have never been played before?

And speaking of the potential date for Game 1 of the Finals, Oct. 13, it would seem to be an unlikely time to wrap up the unwieldy and centuries-long fight for equal rights and protection under the law for Black Americans when compared to our white compatriots.

The struggle will continue beyond this fall and anyone from the NBA — among them, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, DeMar DeRozan, Malcolm Brogden, Enes Kanter, and Jaylen Brown — who have either been in the forefront of recent protests against police brutality or spoken out as champions of socio-political change will have in their nationally-televised games and widely distributed press conferences and interview sessions a platform with which to continue driving the conversation of social justice forward.

For that matter, NBA commissioner Adam Silver would be fine playing out the League’s statements of all sorts within a centralized location meant to accommodate the players of the 22 teams as well as a host of media representatives, all of whom will willingly document every move made in this one-of-a-kind late-summer experiment. No less a source of support than Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has expressed his pleasure with the NBA’s plans.

So, good to go, right? Not quite.

Silver and the National Basketball Players Association should reconsider ending the near three-month hiatus for much less complex, but nonetheless pressing, reasons, chief among them the still-ominous presence of COVID-19, which has taken the lives of more than 113,000 Americans.

According to a TIME Magazine analysis, half the country continues to witness a daily increase in the amount of confirmed cases while many others are experiencing a second-wave of infections after an initial bend in the curve, including potential NBA-hosting Florida, which reported record levels of new cases Sunday, on the heels of its second phase of reopening.

The details that will govern the health and safety protocols of a planned restart have yet to be ironed out, but each player involved will be tested and quarantined from his family, and the general public at-large, for a period of months.

An unmistakable sticking point is money, which plays a significant role in any decision-making process in the realm of sports. In this case money’s role is that of the potential forfeiting of more than $1 billion in salaries for the players and about $2 billion in lost revenue for the league’s owners as a consequence of a lost season, according to ESPNs Bobby Marks.

Moreover, the threat of a lockout looms large as it has been speculated that, if the players chose to sit-out the remainder of the season, the owners would invoke the force majeure clause of the current collective bargaining agreement and force renegotiation of the entire CBA by which they would have the leverage to haggle for more than the previously agreed upon 50/50 split of basketball-related income.

The league has assured those players who choose to back out of the restart plan that they can do so without fear of punishment. But the mere fact that some players are expressing concern, I think, should give owners enough reason to rethink this plan before they revert to displacing player safety with their bottom line after already erring on the side of caution for three months. To be clear, that would be a longer shot than any chucked toward the rim from half-court from the hands of Trae Young, Damian Lillard or Steph Curry with so much money at stake.

As a lifelong basketball fan — and someone who, admittedly, can riddle off the starting lineup of our lowly Chicago Bulls without a second thought while requiring a Bud Billiken Parade’s length of time to name five members of Donald Trump’s Cabinet without an assist from Google — this opinion is not one that was constructed without some degree of angst, especially considering how Father Time is seemingly bearing down on King James like an unpinned grenade in flight.

In a perfect world, I would prefer to see James, a 17-year-vet, three-time champion and my favorite player, given an opportunity to capitalize on what has been a promising season.

But in a world still searching for the means to subdue both an ongoing pandemic and generations worth of racial injustice the NBA has a potential representative place on the front-lines of two cultural battles. To accept those responsibilities while deciding a league champion pretty much on the fly may be too much to ask of even such a great organization.

Perhaps the factor deserving of deepest examination in negotiations for the continuation of play is the one over which all parties involved have, unequivocally, the most control — their own personal safety and that of those closest to them.

One response to “NBA: League Is Playing Itself By Insisting On Playing In Bubble

  1. Pingback: NBA: Collecting Title Is Never Easy, Bubble or No Bubble | WARR - We Are Regal Radio·

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