Ask De’Aaron Fox about the order of operations or public health, and he’ll give you a smart answer. After the Kings’ win over the Celtics Wednesday night, Fox was asked if he was “surprised” that the NBA intends to play a 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta in early March, as the players’ union and league office near an agreement.
“If I’m going to be brutally honest, I think it’s stupid,” Fox said. “If we have to wear masks and do all this for a regular game, what’s the point of bringing an All-Star Game back? But obviously money makes the world go round, so it is what it is. I’m not really worried about it. If I’m voted, so be it.”
Would he play, if selected?
“If you’re supposed to be in it, and you’re not hurt, and you decide not to play, that’s a hefty fine,” he said. “So hell yeah I would play in it. Hope I don’t get fined for saying that shit.”
The good news for Fox is that he may be able to take advantage of an opt-out clause, just as there was for the Orlando bubble and the current season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. (The other good news for Fox is that there’s no other Sacramento King who might be be granted the honor of contracting the novel coronavirus at the All-Star Game.)
The bad news for literally every active NBA player is that this appears to be happening, anyway. I find myself parsing the Saran wrap-thin distinction between a “meaningful” regular season and “meaningless” exhibition game in the context of a crisis that makes both look tiny and reckless and, yes, stupid. The NBA is already embracing risk by staging 1,080 of the first kind, even as players get sick, rosters are wiped by safety protocol, dates are postponed, and courtside fans yap maskless. Maybe one more game of the second kind is possible, but there’s no need to add new stupid to existing stupid. Especially when it involves a whole new layer of logistical risk—the league will be gathering players across many teams, only to send them back to their respective cities with whatever they might’ve picked up.
That’s tempting fate. So is letting James Harden spend an unnecessary night in Atlanta. Players and executives around the league share Fox’s skepticism, according to Wojnarowski. How about instead voting one player from the East and one player from the West and having them play one-on-one to 100? Bring in Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, put it on TV, and give the survivor the MVP.