Adam Silver was constantly on his phone in late December. At the time, the NBA had more than 100 players abandoned due to virus-related issues, along with some head coaches, assistant coaches, referees, and team employees.
The NHL had just paused its season. The NBA commissioner wondered if his league would follow suit.
“I was very worried,” Silver said. “And we had numerous discussions with our governors about whether we were doing the right thing.”
With a lot of help from dozens of newly signed players, some of whom were already forgotten, the NBA continued to play.
It can be argued that the unspeakable MVPs this season were the more than 100 players who signed difficult short-term contracts to cover when almost all teams were decimated by the Omicron variant and other virus problems in December and January.
Those fillings prevented the season from deviating from the rails. And that’s why the NBA Finals clash between the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors is being played out exactly as planned when the schedule was drawn up last summer.
“I think everyone understood that if we had to stop the season, it would also have a huge potential economic impact on the league or force the players and the league to have to move to the summer, which is not ideal,” Silver said. he told The Associated Press. “So without those players, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Around the league, 605 players, a record, entered at least one game during the regular season, 12% more than last season. There were 633 players who were known to have a contract at some point, 15% more than last season.
And when the variant was at its worst, the league was at its peak: over a 10-day period in late December, 93 different 10-day contracts were signed.
“The weirdest season I’ve been a part of so far,” NBA veteran LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers said during the season. “I don’t just want to talk about injuries, but COVID protocols. You have guys looking for false positives. You’ve had guys who have come out for real reasons. … We’ve had a little bit of everything.”
To express how many players were needed from some perspective, consider that during a five-season period — from 1982-83 to 1986-87 — the Celtics used a total of 27 players.
This season, they used 28.
And that doesn’t count on four Celtics signing and never getting into a game. The total of 32 Celtics players who were under contract, some of them very briefly, at some point this season was the highest in the NBA, one more than Portland and two more than Indiana, Milwaukee and New Orleans.
“Obviously playing basketball for unprecedented times in the last two years has been difficult for individuals, families, etc.,” said Boston baseman Jaylen Brown. “But I think the NBA and the players’ association have done the best they can to keep things going and accommodate as best they can. There have been ups and downs. There have been questions, things that didn’t make sense. But I keep giving credit where it’s due.
The NBA had to postpone a total of 11 games that were initially scheduled for mid to late December, and the rescheduling of those forced the change of another eight games to prevent teams from playing in too adverse circumstances such as having three games in three nights.
Otherwise, the games were played normally. Only it wasn’t normal.
“A global pandemic was not something you would expect to be part of a season,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “But it was, and it is, and it made people find some solutions and keep working.”
Former NBA All-Stars like Joe Johnson – who made his only shooting attempt in his appearance in a Celtics game – and Isaiah Thomas have been called back to the league to help in the midst of exhaustion. The Warriors’ Quinndary Weatherspoon made her season debut on Christmas Day.
“Surreal,” he said.
Washington signed center Jaime Echenique and played three outstanding minutes; no points, no statistics of any kind. But he made history, becoming the first Colombian to appear in an NBA game.
“If I’m dreaming, don’t wake me up,” Echenique said.
It is players like Echenique who have maintained the season. The league’s schedule almost a year ago – long before Omicron, long before anyone knew what the season would bring and how the virus would go – was listed on Monday as a day trip for NBA Finals teams before Games 2 and 3.
The Celtics and Warriors travel on Monday, as scheduled.
The NBA is on the verge of overcoming a season as planned, thanks to some former All-Stars and more than a few unknown players.
“I know Chris Paul, for example, said at one of our meetings the incredible debt of gratitude we have with these players,” Silver told AP. “And he even reminded his other NBA players, ‘Don’t forget to thank those players.’
“But without the service, in large part of those G-League players, we wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
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NBA Finals, season not scheduled thanks to substitute players
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