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“The virus makes the timeline,” or why the NBA isn’t coming back anytime soon

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All of this positive self-talk from the NBA is missing the point.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA is hell bent on coming back.

At nearly every opportunity in the last week, those who represent the National Basketball Association in a public-facing way have let it be known they expect to play basketball again, and sooner than we might expect. Adam Silver said on March 18th that they aren’t ready to cancel the season yet. Mark Cuban seems to think mid-May is realistic.

I understand why they’re doing this. Projecting confidence in a time of uncertainly is extremely important. Only in this case, with each passing day, it’s also looking rather stupid. The thing is, in a very real way, the NBA doesn’t have much of a choice here.

Wednesday evening, on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the Coronavirus Task Force and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) made this simple and utterly inarguable statement: “You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline. So you’ve gotta respond [to] what you see happening.”

Read that again: “You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.”

The NBA needs to stop acting like it’s in control. It’s not. As a fan and avid consumer of basketball as a product, this positive self talk is starting to piss me off. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been in my home for 10-plus days now, working with my four year old during the day and keeping up with my day job at night, but my tolerance for blatant disregard of facts has plummeted.

I don’t want the NBA to cancel its season. I also don’t want it to resume in July and then play for a year straight with a semblance of a break in September. There’s the clear recognition that all of this is largely about the money for both owners and players but from my perspective on the couch, this is edging in to stupid territory.

Stop feeding fans what we want to hear and acknowledge the facts as they are. What we’re dealing with as a nation may go on for a while or it may ebb sooner than experts believe. But basketball? Basketball is a luxury and teasing out the notion that they might play is starting to look strange in the face of more information.

There are no good solutions to the problems facing the NBA. But frankly, that statement applies to the country at large at the moment. So enough with the speculation.

The great Howard Beck of Bleacher Report said it best on Wednesday evening: “I’m going to quote Fauci from now on, every time someone asks me, ‘When do you think the NBA will resume?’ Adam Silver doesn’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.”