Phoenix Suns: Should players participate in NBA return if no path to playoffs?

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

If/when the NBA returns and not all teams have a shot at the playoffs, the Phoenix Suns players will have to seriously consider whether to participate.

Damian Lillard made waves in the NBA world on Tuesday when he admitted if the Portland Trail Blazers have no legitimate path to the playoffs in whatever format the NBA decides to return, he won’t play. The question now becomes what other players would follow his lead, and would anyone on the Phoenix Suns be one of them?

Lillard is not totally off base here. Why would someone with his level of stardom take the risk of contracting COVID-19 if there isn’t a realistic path for their team to achieve their goal of making the playoffs?

The problem is, health isn’t the reason he would sit out. As he explains:

"“If we come back and I don’t have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I’ll be at practice and I’ll be with my team. I’m going to do all that and then I’m going to be sitting right on that bench during the games.”"

Needless to say, Lillard (or any player) exposes himself to the risk of contracting COVID-19 just as much as any other player if he participates in practices, stays close with the team, and then just sits on the bench during the games.

Everything we know so far about the NBA's return to play. light. Related Story

The risk of catching COVID-19 is not at the forefront of his position. Instead, it appears to be a decision based on spite. Lillard went on to tell Yahoo! how, because his team was so close to making the playoffs, it would be unfair to just cut the season off prematurely and jump right into the postseason.

I get why he’d be ticked off. The Trail Blazers are 9th in the Western Conference, 3.5 games back of Memphis and with starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, and starting power forward, Zach Collins, who were prepared to come back from injury, the Blazers had a real shot of making a run for 8th seed if the hiatus never happened.

I’d be ticked off too.

Still, I can’t get behind him sitting out “tune-up” games because of it. There are many reasons to do pretty much any given thing in this life, but spite should not be one of them. There are a lot of people out there who have taken huge financial hits due to the hiatus, and a plan to get five or six more regular-season games in to help recoup some of that money is understandable from the league’s perspective.

And honestly, if the health risk isn’t a concern for him and he plans to be in the bubble to be with this team, as a leader, he should go one more step and play the games.

Related Story. One play-in option would exclude the Phoenix Suns. light

The Phoenix Suns players will have a big decision to make if the league returns and they don’t have a path to make the playoffs.

I yadda-yadda’ed through a big if there, and this is where the Phoenix Suns come in. If any player, coach, or staff member doesn’t feel like they can work in a safe environment, I think the NBA (or the individual teams) have to give them the latitude to not enter the bubble, and sit out.

Maybe they don’t get paid, maybe they do. That gets complicated quickly, so I’m going to leave that part out.

The truth is that people, in general, have different risk tolerances and when dealing with something as serious as a global pandemic, so demanding workers to show up isn’t something I feel a prominent organization like the NBA should do.

Too often COVID-19 patients are discussed in the extremes. Either someone is asymptomatic or maybe has some mild symptoms but turns out to be fine a week later or the virus is fatal or near-fatal.

Like so many other battles of extremes, the vast majority of cases are in the middle, and with this disease there are several reports of patients who come out of this with permanent lung damage. They live and maybe weren’t critical enough to be on a ventilator, but their lung capacity diminished to the point where they can’t walk to their car without getting short of breath.

Even a milder version of this could be devastating to an athlete’s career.

There is a risk-benefit analysis every human on Earth faces right now. Is the benefit of going out to eat worth the risk? What about going to the beach? The bar?

I’m sure the NBA will go above and beyond to ensure a safe environment for these players and staff. With their resources and presumed vast testing capability, the Disney bubble might be one of the safer workplaces in America.

Related Story. Devin Booker likely had around $250,000 withheld from paycheck. light

Having said that, if I’m Devin Booker and the league wants me to come back for just a few meaningless games, I’m not sure I go. He’s super young and barring something cataclysmic, he will have a lengthy career. To me, it simply would not be worth the risk.

More from Valley of the Suns

However, on the flip side, for guys like Elie Okobo, Jevon Carter, and Cheick Diallo who are still trying to assure their spot on a roster, any roster, in the near future, the benefit of getting out there to showcase their talent to the league probably is worth the risk.

They’re still fighting for their livelihoods while players like Booker, Rubio, and Ayton are in much safer spots.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see the Phoenix Suns with their full complement of the players go back to battle whether the games are meaningless or not. Actually, I hope all 30 teams make some kind of play-in tournament, but my basketball craving will settle for a handful of regular-season games.

I’m just saying if I’m an established NBA star, I think long and hard before putting my future at risk, even if the league tries to mitigate that risk as much as possible

Next. 8 best random moments in any Suns game. dark