Nate McMillan, coach of the Atlanta Hawks, was very frank when asked if he thinks the NBA should pause the season due to the rising number of COVID-19 infections.
Speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, McMillan said:
“I think that way, but it’s not up to me. It’s really frustrating for us and a lot of other teams. But there isn’t anything we can do other than follow the direction of the league. We are trying to bring in players to replace guys who go into protocol. It’s a real challenge.”
McMillan’s comments are the starkest yet from someone inside the NBA about a possible postponement for the rest of the season.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently said there were no plans to stop the season, even briefly, but is it time to truly reconsider this?
Over 250 NBA players or coaches have entered health and safety protocols this season, which has been good news for a few G League and unsigned players but it’s been bad news for just about everyone else.
Counting two-way players and typical 15-man rosters, there are about 500 active NBA players in a normal season. At the moment, an even half of that figure — 250 players — have entered health and safety protocols so far in the 2021-22 campaign, with 237 coming in December alone.
— Baxter Holmes (@Baxter) December 30, 2021
Even though nearly the entire league is fully vaccinated and boosted, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is finding its way into every nook and cranny of the NBA.
Some of the biggest names in the game, including Kevin Durant, James Harden, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and so many others have had to sit out for weeks because of the virus.
Omicron came out of nowhere and the explosion of cases wasn’t predicted but several weeks have gone by and the NBA has only made minimal changes to limit infections.
Previously, Silver firmly said the league wasn’t going to shut down the season for any amount of time and many people assumed his position was influenced by the upcoming Christmas Day games which are huge rating hits for ABC and the NBA.
Adam Silver says there are no plans to stop the NBA season
(via @malika_andrews, NBA Today) pic.twitter.com/Bn61gXFwE3
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 21, 2021
But those games have come and gone and yet cases are still rising.
So if there is any time to pause the season, it’s now – especially since the pandemic within the league is definitely sticking around.
Could It Get Worse?
No one wants this season to be another “asterisk year”.
Some fans have had a hard time fully supporting the idea of the Milwaukee Bucks or the Los Angeles Lakers being champions in recent years because of how topsy-turvy and weird their respective winning seasons were.
The Lakers won in the Orlando bubble and the Bucks won after a slew of major players were injured, which has led certain people to think those victories weren’t truly earned.
This year, the COVID protocols are the big variable that is affecting the league.
There are a number of supporters who simply don’t think this is right: how can teams fairly compete when they are constantly losing so many players to COVID?
That’s a legitimate point and if the NBA hopes to address it, a pause of the season might be smart.
Any pause would allow the virus to work its way out of the league, would let stadiums and offices be properly cleaned, and would also give those sidelined players the chance to rejoin their teams.
It’s not a perfect solution and it wouldn’t eliminate the virus but it would do something to once again level the playing field and help get a handle on the outbreaks.
But if it doesn’t happen soon there is a chance that the NBA could be looking at a league that is torn apart during the All-Star Game or, worse yet, the Finals.NEXT: Should Isaiah Thomas Get A Full-Time Contract?