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Don’t expect the NBA to return to normal in 30 days

Realistically this will take longer.

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NBA, MLB & NHL Suspend Seasons Due to Coronavirus Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The NBA announced that operations will be suspended for “at least” 30 days in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic. But we should realistically prepare for the NBA to be absent longer. In a most-ideal scenario, the league could return without fans in attendance, but there’s reason to suspect even that goal is out of reach.

The primary reason is that the United States lacks tests. Sam Amick wrote for The Athletic about how a critical shortage of testing means that Kings players haven’t even been tested yet.

Consider this as a cautionary tale: In Sacramento, where Wednesday’s game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Kings was canceled just minutes before tipoff after it was discovered that a game official (Courtney Kirkland) had worked a Jazz game just two nights before, there was an understandable desire to have all of the Kings players tested. But as is the case in American society at large, those tests are typically reserved for people who have the most severe symptoms or who are known to have come into contact with someone who was infected. The screening process that is playing out all over the league is, in essence, born out of the fact that coronavirus tests are in such short supply.

The numbers here, and in so many other places, are staggering. According to Dr. Peter Beilenson, the leading health official in Sacramento County, who was quoted in The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday, the county which has a population of approximately 1.5 million people has only been able to test up to “20 people per day” to this point. So no, in other words, getting a verdict on the health of your local NBA team’s 15th man isn’t a bigger priority than tending to the elderly or the ailing.

To Sam’s point, testing NBA players shouldn’t be top priority. It’s an alarming failure that a city as large as Sacramento is unable to properly test those who need it. The elderly and immunocompromised are in very real danger. Until testing becomes more widely available, until the curve is successfully flattened, holding large public events would be completely irresponsible.

It took the NBA too long, in my opinion, to finally shut everything down. That the league had every intention of allowing the Kings to play the Pelicans, knowing that the league was going to be shut down the following day, was absurd and reckless. That the league allowed fans into the building at all was dangerous.

But now that the league has shut down, and now that sports leagues world wide are following suit, the NBA will hopefully exercise more caution. Be prepared for a long hiatus unless other external factors dramatically shift in a positive direction.

Stay safe. Avoid large crowds if you can. Wash your hands.