NBPA chief: Players want to play, need certainty

In team-by-team virtual calls with players this week, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said the “overwhelming” sentiment has been that “they really want to play” and resume the 2019-20 NBA season, most likely in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida.

“It’s time. It’s time,” Roberts told ESPN. “It’s been two and a half months of, ‘What if?’ My players need some level of certainty. I think everybody does.”

Roberts said she plans to speak with players on all 30 teams over the next week and gauge their reaction to the NBA’s plans for reopening, providing as many details as possible about how the league will seek to mitigate their risk of contracting the coronavirus, first at training camps and then at the 228-acre resort in Orlando.

A joint task force between the NBA and the players’ union has been negotiating plans for a resumption of the NBA’s season, which has been suspended indefinitely since March 11, when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported last week that teams were expecting the league to issue guidelines for a resumption of play by June 1. The NBA’s board of governors has a meeting this Friday that is expected to provide further clarity on plans to return.

Roberts believes that the union will be able to give feedback on those plans soon after the league issues those new guidelines because of the collective bargaining that has already taken place via the joint task force, and the virtual calls she is holding with each team this week.

As such, she explained, the players’ association does not necessarily need to hold a vote on the league’s plans.

“If we thought we needed a vote, we would. If we’re ratifying a CBA, we need a vote,” she said. “But our preferred method is talking to people or just having them talk to us. Then if we get a sense of what the sentiment is then we can move forward. We talk to our players and figure it out.”

Roberts said she has been encouraging the league to provide as much detail as it can now, so that players can react quickly to those plans instead of the drawn-out process that has stalled Major League Baseball’s return.

“Let’s just get it out there, because our guys need to know,” she said. “Certainty will be good. But the players really want to play.”