The Philadelphia 76ers’ big man voiced some increasingly common doubts about the NBA’s bubble plan.
The NBA season is set to resume at the end of the month. The Philadelphia 76ers start regular season games on August 1. Despite a slew of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, the league’s plan remains full steam ahead. Several teams arrived inside the bubble yesterday.
Many players on the Sixers roster have voiced some level of concern over the NBA’s bubble plan, but none more prominent than Joel Embiid. In talking to reporters yesterday, Embiid said he’s “not a big fan” of the concept, and that he was initially against playing during a pandemic.
“I’m not a big fan of the idea. But then again, I’m going to do my job. I’m not going to let the city down…I don’t like the idea.”
Embiid is a homebody who likes video games, so to him, following the NBA’s strict social distancing protocols is doable. He lacks confidence in other NBA players, however, who may be tempted to eschew responsibility and break protocol.
This is nothing new, and several players — either explicitly or covertly — have shared Embiid’s sentiment. The NBA is risking the health of its players and staffs in order to make this season happen. Embiid is not alone in questioning the league’s motives.
“You don’t want to be in a situation where you put your life risk just for the money. At the end of the day, basketball is not all that matters. I’ve got my family, I’ve got myself to look out for. So that’s all I care about.”
Basketball is far from important in the grand scheme of things. The scope of the problems, both local and global, far outreaches any solution basketball can claim to provide. An escape, sure — but at what cost in the fight for equal justice? A platform, sure — but to what effect, when players are restricted to a fraction of the Disney World campus for two months?
Embiid was not the only Sixer to broadcast his concerns to the media. Mike Scott was open about his struggle to refocus to basketball after three months focused on family and the fight for change. Shake Milton and Alec Burks were initially hesitant to play in Orlando, but wanted to compete with their teammates.
This is a wide-ranging issue for players in the league. The NBA’s bubble, once billed as an impenetrable basketball sanctuary, feels more like a ticking clock than a foolproof plan. Cases of COVID-19 continue to reach record highs in Florida. The league is attempting its re-start in the most vulnerable place in the country, and basketball feels less important than ever.
With all that said, Embiid is committed to winning a title, and he made sure to emphasize his desire to play for the city. Embiid has embraced Philadelphia since the day he arrived, and his dedication to bringing a championship to South Philly is as admirable as ever.
“I wouldn’t let my teammates down… I play in a city that’s tough and I consider myself as being tough.”
It’s important not to conflate toughness with recklessness. If the NBA’s plan is unsafe, players shouldn’t blindly acquiesce in order to look strong-willed. There’s a lot of money at stake, and yes, fans would appreciate a nightly slate of games. But it’s also necessary to recognize potential flaws in the NBA’s plan, as well as the overarching health risk.
Embiid will do everything in his power to bring a championship to Philadelphia. That’s been his driving force for years now. Whether the league should or shouldn’t re-start — and there are arguments on both sides — the one certainty is Embiid’s commitment to team and city.