NBA Eying Charity Game During Hiatus

An update on the NBA's coronavirus crisis as the league enters its second week without basketball.
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Wednesday night marked a week since the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season following Rudy Gobert's positive diagnosis for COVID-19, and the league has spent the last seven days trying to figure out a way forward. In the days since Wednesday's chaotic sequence of events, several other players have tested positive for novel coronavirus and the CDC recommended that gatherings of 50 or more people be cancelled. 

On Wednesday, the NBA inched slightly closer to giving fans basketball to watch. Commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN's Rachel Nichols that the league has discussed holding a charity game involving healthy players as a way of entertaining fans until the rest of the league returns to the court. 

"People are stuck at home and they need a diversion and they need to be entertained," Silver said. "To the extent we were the first to shut our league down. To what extent can we be a first mover to restart our economy."

It should be noted that the NBA hasn't officially set plans for this game into motion, only discussed it as a possibility. Silver was optimistic that the 2020 season could continue, but did not give any sort of timetable for when that might happen. Given the CDC's latest recommendation and Adrian Wojnarowski's report that owners are hoping for a return before July, the season isn't likely to start back any time in the near future. Silver told Nichols that the league would resume play "when public health officials give us the okay." 

On Tuesday, four members of the Brooklyn Nets tested positive for COVID-19, including 2014 MVP and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, who hasn't played this season due to a torn Achilles' tendon. The Nets released a statement on Wednesday saying that some players and staff exhibited symptoms of the coronavirus, which prompted the team to get tested. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder, who were playing against the Jazz the night Gobert was diagnosed, all tested negative for the virus, according to Wojnarowski. Silver said on Wednesday that eight NBA teams have been tested so far. 

The ease with which those eight teams have acquired test kits and gotten results as sparked questions about why NBA teams can get tested so much more promptly than the rest of the U.S. Michele Roberts, the President of the NBA Players' Association, expressed disappointment of criticism of the league on Wednesday, calling on the federal government to ensure that citizens have easier access to tests. 

"The problem that more of us can't get the tests -- and I'm not apologetic about saying it -- in my view, that rests at the foot of the federal government," Roberts told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. "They were responsible for making sure we were protected in that regard, and I think they failed." 

The U.S. government has indeed been slow to react to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, only recently treating the situation with the seriousness typically devoted to a pandemic of this scale. President Donald Trump has shifted his tone and rhetoric in the past few days, calling the outbreak a "hoax" last week before falsely claiming on Wednesday that he took the pandemic "very seriously." 

Roberts argued that the NBA and its players, who have more money and better access to healthcare than most Americans, shouldn't be held responsible for a flawed healthcare system and a slow response from the Trump administration. 

"I get it," Roberts said. "People should not be having to wait in line. The at-risk population should be the first to be tested. But god damn it, if the government had done what they were supposed to do, we wouldn't be competing for an opportunity to be tested."

In lighter news, the NBA has made League Pass free to everyone through April 22. Fans will be able to watch any game from the 2020 season, as well as a smattering of classic games from years past.