The 2019-20 NBA season will resume at Disney World on July 30, with teams set to travel to Orlando in the near future. The plan is facing a number of obstacles, though, as coronavirus cases surge in Florida and protests against police brutality and systemic racism have led to widespread demands for social justice reform.
With such valid concerns, the league has stated that no players will be forced to go to Orlando, nor will they be in breach of their contract if they decide not to go. However, unless said player is declared “excused” or “protected” for health reasons, they will not be paid for the games they miss. “Excused” or “protected” players will not have their salary reduced if they don’t play.
A one-week transaction window opened on June 23, allowing all 30 teams to sign or waive players, as well as convert two-way players to full contracts. Players who did not play in the NBA this season will be allowed to sign deals — for example, J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford are eligible — but those who played overseas cannot join a club.
From July 1 until Aug. 14 — the end of the regular season or “seeding” games — teams in Orlando will continue to be allowed to sign replacement players for anyone who tests positive for the virus or decides to sit out.
So far, we have already seen players including DeAndre Jordan, Davis Bertans, Trevor Ariza and Avery Bradley decide to sit out, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more join them. While teams originally treated June 24 as the deadline for players to opt out, they have since unofficially extended it to July 1, when they must inform the league of their traveling party to Orlando.
As the situation develops, here’s a look at the players who won’t be traveling to Orlando, as well as some who seem to be on the fence:
DeAndre Jordan — C, Brooklyn Nets: Sitting Out
Jordan announced Monday that he would be sitting out after testing positive for COVID-19. “Found out last night and confirmed again today that I’ve tested positive for Covid while being back in market. As a result of this, I will not be in Orlando for the resumption of the season,” Jordan tweeted. He is the fifth Nets player that has been ruled out for Orlando, joining Wilson Chandler, Nicolas Claxton, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Avery Bradley — G, Los Angeles Lakers: Sitting Out
Bradley had previously joined with Kyrie Irving to lead a coalition of players demanding social justice reform not just from the broader world, but from the NBA. However, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the primary factor in Bradley’s decision to sit out was the health of his son, who has struggled with respiratory illnesses in the past and was unlikely to be permitted within the bubble.
“As committed to my Lakers teammates and the organization as I am, I ultimately play basketball for my family,” Bradley said. “And so, at a time like this, I can’t imagine making any decision that might put my family’s health and well-being at even the slightest risk.
“As promised also, I will use this time away to focus on the formation of projects to help strengthen my communities.”
Davis Bertans — F, Washington Wizards: Sitting out
Bertans was in the midst of a career season when the pandemic halted play, and as an impending free agent is set for the biggest payday of his life. As a result, he’s wisely choosing to skip Orlando. Perhaps things would be different if the Wizards were a contender, but they’ll need something of a miracle to even qualify for the playoffs, and if they do that their reward is likely getting smashed by the Milwaukee Bucks. With his injury history and the surging virus, there’s no reason for Bertans to make the trip.
Trevor Ariza — F, Portland Trail Blazers: Sitting out
One of the league’s extensive health and safety protocols for the bubble environment mandates that no guests or family members will be allowed in Orlando until after the first round of the playoffs is complete. As a result, Trevor Ariza will not be joining the Trail Blazers. Due to a custody situation, Ariza will instead stay home to care for his son. It’s a noble and extremely understandable decision.
Willie Cauley-Stein — C, Dallas Mavericks: Sitting out
Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein has decided to sit out the resumed NBA season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Cauley-Stein and his partner are reportedly expecting a newborn child in July. In addition, Cauley-Stein also carries the sickle cell trait.
Wilson Chandler — F, Brooklyn Nets: Sitting out
Nets forward Wilson Chandler has informed the team that he is opting out of playing at Disney, according to ESPN’s Malika Andrews. With Kevin Durant out for the season, Chandler had a decent-sized role in Brooklyn’s rotation and had even joined the starting lineup just before the season was shut down. “As difficult as it will be to not be with my teammates, the health and well-being of my family has to come first,” Chandler said via Andrews. “Thank you to the Nets organization for understanding and supporting me in this decision, and I will be watching and rooting for our team in Orlando.”
Zhaire Smith — F, Philadephia 76ers: Injured
Smith has a bone bruise in his left knee, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic, and will not travel to Orlando with the 76ers. He is expected to make a full recovery, but this is just the latest setback for Smith after a series of injuries has allowed him to play on 13 total games for Philadelphia since he was selected No. 15 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. He had not been a major member of Philadelphia’s rotation to this point in his career.
Kyrie Irving — G, Brooklyn Nets: Injured, in favor of not playing
Irving is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in March, so he won’t be playing basketball anytime soon no matter what. But even if he was healthy, there are no guarantees we would see Irving on the floor in Orlando. The Nets guard has been one of the most vocal players in recent weeks, making it clear that playing basketball right now would be too much of a distraction from the myriad issues of police brutality and racial and social injustice. “I don’t support going into Orlando,” Irving reportedly said during a recent call with players. “I’m willing to give up everything I have (for social reform).”
Dwight Howard — C, Los Angeles Lakers: Undecided
The veteran center is enjoying a renaissance as a back-up big man in Los Angeles and is in a position to win the first title of his career. Still, he’s undecided about coming back, saying in a recent statement, “I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that’s just to (sic) beautiful to pass up.”
Justise Winslow — F, Memphis Grizzlies: Undecided
Winslow took a more direct approach than most players have so far, calling out both the league and the players association on social media for what he feels is a lack of care for their health and safety. “This s— ain’t even bout basketball or our safety anymore,” Winslow wrote. “All about the Benjamins baby. Not sure if they really care if we get corona. FOH @nba @nbpa.” During a discussion with Caron Butler, John Wall and Danny Green on the NBA’s Twitter account, Winslow later added, “I don’t know if it’s the smartest way to come back right now. I’d love to fight this fight for social injustice and these other things, but to be completely honest, I’m a little iffy about Orlando.”