In the past few days, Chris Paul chose to have a conference with Thunder journalists about the coronavirus and a potential return to basketball. Paul has unique insight into the situation created by COVID-19, he is the President of the NBPA. Paul’s presence as the union leader for all 450 players league-wide has meant that he has been in communication with league officials about the crisis. Paul is well placed to discuss these matters due to his connections with players and the league office.
The topics discussed on the call were pretty varied but there were a few notable highlights from the call. When Chris was asked about the league coming back from hiatus, Paul was emphatic in stating that he does not know when the league will return or what format the league will take. Paul stated that he did not like the idea of league returning immediately, he felt there was a strong possibility of injury if basketball comes back within the next two weeks. Paul’s concerns are perfectly valid, basketball players who do not have access to training facilities will not have practiced since early March, the player will not be physically prepared for a return to competitive action. It is not in the interest of the league or the Players’ Association for injuries to occur due to poor planning on the part of the league office. Paul believes that it would take at least three weeks for players to get back into game shape. This estimate seems reasonable when compared to other sports around the world. The Bundesliga, the top tier of German football, have allowed teams three weeks to get players match-fit and ready for action. Erik Horne of The Athletic detailed Paul’s thoughts on a return to basketball below.
Chris Paul on how long it would take to get back in shape: “I don’t know. Whatever happens, players are going to have input. We don’t ever want to put guys in a situation of injury. I’d say at least three to four weeks.”— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) April 22, 2020
Paul was careful when discussing hypotheticals about the league’s return, he stated that he did not know anything about the league’s return. The usual course of action by the league is to notify the Players’ Association of all changes to the competition. In this example, the Players’ Association has been in the dark while Adam Silver surveys his options and works out the best option for the continuation of the league. Personally, I believe that the idea of creating a ‘bubble’ that can be contained and sterilised makes the most sense in terms of safety. While playing games in front of empty home arenas is somewhat safe, there is still the possibility of infection spreading due to teams travelling around the country.
Chris also talked about this current Thunder team and his thoughts were pretty positive. Chris has really enjoyed his time in Oklahoma City playing on this roster. It is still a surprising turn of events when you consider the fact that the Thunder were expected to struggle this season. Paul’s leadership has been important in Oklahoma City winning games and creating a good atmosphere around the side but I will say that the presence of youth players has been important as well. Paul has enjoyed taking Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley under his wing in the same manner that his veterans did when Paul was a Hornet. Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman transcribed Paul’s insight on this season below this paragraph.
CP on this season: “This is one of the funnest years I’ve had, with the team. ... I get excited with our Zoom calls.” Said those calls make him optimistic that they’ll find a way to get back to playing.— Maddie Lee (@maddie_m_lee) April 22, 2020
Although the conference call did not reveal any new significant information about a return to play, Paul’s thoughts towards the roster were elaborated on. He has loved his time in Oklahoma City playing for a team that has drastically over-achieved due to his ability as a basketball player. We know that come next season, Chris Paul will re-focus on his aim of winning a championship in whatever way possible and that will likely be with another team but the season has been fun for everybody invested in the Oklahoma City Thunder.