As much as Spurs fans would love to continue rooting for the youngins in Austin, it’s probably safer to cancel the G League season.
Everyone who follows the San Antonio Spurs closely knows that the organization uses the G League to develop its players. Many of the top organizations in the NBA scout, evaluate and mature their players in the NBA’s minor league before calling them up to the top of the food chain.
This makes the potential end of the 2019-20 G League season all the more difficult, but it’s a precaution that needs to be taken. It was reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Sunday evening that NBA teams expect the minor league season to be canceled very soon.
Reporting with @malika_andrews: NBA teams operating G League franchises expect rest of the minor-league season will soon be cancelled, sources tell ESPN. Regular season runs thru end of March, playoffs into April. Players have been informed they'll be paid thru end of schedule.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 15, 2020
The G League season finishes at the end of March with playoffs running through early-April—directly interfering with the CDC’s recommended eight-week suspension of all events with at least 50 people. While G League crowds aren’t quite as substantial as that of the NBA, the teams and staff alone make up a population bordering, if not exceeding the recommended limit.
For as much as I’d love to see Chimezie Metu, Drew Eubanks and Dedric Lawson tearing it up for the rest of the season, this is for the best. Endangering the health of players, staff and fans isn’t worth a few extra games of development—Especially when the circumstances at hand aren’t fully understood and are regarding public safety.
While it’s not official yet that the G League season is over, it’s likely to be announced in the coming days. Here’s why it’s the logical decision to make.
Next: Travelling issues
G Leaguers fly to games on commercial airplanes
Even if it’s to play in a competitive basketball game, the last place anyone wants to be right now is an airport. It’s a hub for germs and an intersection for people flying from all over the world. To make matters worse, the planes themselves are carriers for the coronavirus to spread throughout the country.
This isn’t an issue of payment or anything of the sort. It’s a matter of player safety, which is indisputable and should always be the No. 1 concern for the league. Although it’s a dream come true to play in the G League and vie for an NBA roster spot, the wages aren’t very high and wouldn’t adequately cover the costs related to combatting COVID-19.
Air travel hasn’t been halted, but there’s a good chance that it will be if this national emergency grows. This would put an immediate halt to all G League play anyway, so this is the league’s way of getting ahead of the curve and proving that they’re putting their employees at the top of their priority list.
Likewise, a player could be carrying the virus without knowing it. Most G Leaguers range between 18-25; an age range that’s reported to show mild to moderate symptoms in many cases. This means players could be carrying the virus without knowing it. If they were to go on a commercial flight to play in a G League game, they’d automatically be endangering the people around them by being on that plane.
At a time when social distancing is being stressed with the utmost importance, it makes sense to keep the G Leaguers home instead of flying them throughout the country.
Next: Financial incentive
The G League isn’t actually all that profitable
In the grand scheme of things, G League teams aren’t generating all that much revenue. Their crowds are moderate in arenas much smaller than those of their NBA counterparts, and ticket prices are much lower. Therefore the risk of hosting an Austin Spurs game far outweighs the upside in the grand scheme of things.
Players are going to practice by their means and stay in shape so that they can compete once the return to action comes. In the meanwhile, owners aren’t incentivized enough to push back against a G League shutdown since that’s not it’s purpose in the first place.
The No. 1 reason for the G League is to promote the growth of the sport. The MLB’s various stages of minor league teams aren’t ever going to make more money than the majors themselves, but they provide an outlet for fans to gather and keep track of their favorite team’s prospects.
Even though the games aren’t all that profitable, it was reported by Woj and Malika Andrews that players have been informed that their full salaries will be paid out regardless of what comes next.
Just because something isn’t super profitable doesn’t mean it’s not important, and the G League is going to be sorely missed. Still, the fact that it’s not generating that much money is going to make parting with the season an easier decision for the people in power.
Next: Sending a message
It sends a message to the basketball world
No one reading this wants to see basketball on an extended hiatus. We all scatter through the offseason, clinging to storylines and projecting what the future looks like as we patiently await what’s next. For many Spurs fans, the prospects of next season are way more exciting than this one.
With that said, the NBA and it’s G League teams need to make it clear that their minds are set on making decisions that match their logic and morals. Shutting down the G League season shows that the league doesn’t value its minor league players any less than it values the players on the main stage and that they’re going to take care of their own no matter what.
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Having G Leaguers carry on while NBA teams sit on their couches wouldn’t be fair to the players fighting to make their way up to the pros. They’re people, not pawns, and they’re not just here for entertainment purposes.
This is another example of NBA commissioner Adam Silver being a forward thinker. For as much as he cares about the profits and prospects of his league, he cares more about taking care of his own.
It’d be nice to watch the Austin Spurs while we wait for the regular season to resume, just as we do during the Summer League, but it wouldn’t be right. Few sports leagues follow the strong moral compass that’s been established by the NBA and making this decision proves that they’re not just making these choices that are easy or lucrative.
The Austin Spurs season will be missed, but they’ll be back when it’s safe and virtuous for them to make their return.