Coronavirus: NBA players divided concerning risk of restart

By Sports Desk June 13, 2020

Kyrie Irving was the first star player to publicly express hesitation about the NBA's plan to finish the season in Orlando, worried about the optics of playing during a time of national unrest, and others now reportedly have other concerns too.

Five young stars from the 2017 draft class are worried about the injury risk of returning to the court nearly five months after the coronavirus pandemic caused the league to shut down, ESPN reported on Saturday.

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat, De'Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers' Kyle Kuzma had a call on Friday with National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) executive director Michele Roberts and senior counsel Ron Klempner about special insurance policies for injury.

Those five players, along with the rest of the 2017 draft class, will be eligible for large extensions in October of the coming offseason.

While Tatum, Mitchell, Adebayo, Fox and Kuzma lobbied to protect their own potential contracts, they also proposed additional injury insurance policies for all players going to Orlando.

The NBA is still negotiating the details of its restart, with plans to include 22 teams and resume the regular season – with a modified schedule – on July 30.

Irving, playing his first season with the Brooklyn Nets, told over 80 players on a Zoom call on Friday that he did not support the NBA returning while the United States is still so deeply tangled in debates about social justice and racial equality.

Later in the call he said he would travel to Orlando if the rest of the players deemed a resumption of play appropriate.

"If it's worth the risk, then let's go and do it," Irving said on the call, according to Yahoo Sports. "But if you're not with it, it's OK, too. We've got options for both ways. Let's just come to a middle ground as a family."

The Houston Rockets' Austin Rivers, however, is in favor of returning to the court and took to social media to respond to Irving's stance against playing.

"Us coming back would be putting money in all our pockets," Rivers said on Instagram. "With this money you could help out even more people and continue to give more importantly your time and energy towards the [Black Lives Matter] movement, which I'm 100% on board with.

"Not to mention there are plenty of NBA players I know who need them paychecks. 99% of the NBA hasn't made the money a guy like Kyrie has."

Rivers went on to say that uniting to finish the 2019-20 season could set a good example for the country to heal and that failing to report to Orlando could hurt the players in the next collective bargaining agreement."

The NBA players were never formally polled on whether or not they would like to continue the season, and some players reportedly have felt powerless during the process of discussing a restart.

Mitchell and Irving – along with the Lakers' Dwight Howard and the Portland Trail Blazers' C.J. McCollum and Carmelo Anthony – were among those who shared doubts about restarting on the players' Zoom discussion.

The players-only call lasted nearly two hours, according to Yahoo Sports, and included trusted veterans Kevin Durant of the Nets, Russell Westbrook of the Rockets and the Miami Heat's Andre Iguodala.

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