The NBA has essentially tied a tourniquet around one of its legs, and they can't help but twist it from time to time.
The league already made it clear that money trumped all other concerns when they strong-armed the players into a breakneck restart of the season. They jammed games into a ridiculous schedule and relied on severely restricting player movement as a method of combatting COVID-19 outbreaks. Getting the games played, even if it meant starting G leaguers, or putting player health at risk, was the priority.
Now players like Evan Fournier are playing with symptoms he compared to a concussion. "I’ve been feeling really weird, to be honest," he admitted after the game. "At first the bright lights were bothering my eyes and my vision was blurry. Everything was just going too fast for me. It’s still the case. Some stuff is better, but at times I’m really struggling to focus and my eyes keep struggling focusing on one thing. My depth perception is really bad right now."
It has all added up to a less than ideal product, and the NBA is paying the price for it. TV ratings are down, and one of the many, varied reasons is that the product is simply not good enough, often enough. Big names have missed long stretches. Good teams have struggled. Players have been openly aggravated. All of this makes the fan experience worse.
Every once in a while, though, we get a good game this season. This one between the Boston Celtics and the Portland Trailblazers was one of them. Had it gone the way it should have, the game would have been celebrated as a gem. The losing team would have to acknowledge that it was a great fight, despite the result. This would have been a replay to watch on NBA TV.
Instead, the officials killed the end of the game by watching a replay on a courtside monitor for six minutes.
Marcus Smart and Jusuf Nurkic collided with 1:56 left and only three points separating the Blazers and Celtics. When Nurkic stayed down clutching a particularly sensitive area of his anatomy, the officials decided to review the play to see if Smart did anything untoward.
And so they put on their headsets and looked at the play. And they kept looking at it. Then they paused for a moment, and went back to it.