The NBA Is About to Restart Its Season. Channing Frye Has Mixed Feelings About It.

The former Blazer is concerned that bringing basketball back now might distract the public from what’s happening in America's streets.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

In a little over a month, if everything goes to plan, America will have basketball again. That "if" is looking a lot bigger now than it did two weeks ago, though.

On June 4, the NBA ratified a proposal to restart its season, which paused in March due to the spread of COVID-19. Beginning in July, 22 teams will be sequestered at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., where they will play out the remainder of the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs, all in the same gym, without fans in the stands.

The plan was approved by the league's board of governors 29-1—the lone "no" vote belonging to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Since then, however, whispers of unease with the situation among players have circulated through the media. It's not just angst over the ongoing pandemic: This past weekend, a delegation of players met via conference call to express concerns about reviving the season in the midst of a historic moment in the fight for racial justice.

Channing Frye doesn't have to worry about whether or not to make the trip to Orlando—the former Blazer, who won a championship playing alongside LeBron James in Cleveland, retired in 2019. But he admits that, were he still playing, he's not entirely sure he'd agree to go.

On the one hand, many questions remain about the logistics of the so-called bubble scenario. Will all players really be subject to regular coronavirus tests, as promised by the league? What about the hotel staff, who will reportedly not be forced to quarantine at the resort with everyone else? How will being stuck in one place, away from their families, for over two months affect the players' ability to perform—not to mention their temperaments?

And then there's the risk of potentially distracting the public from what's happening in America's streets.

"It's easy to protest when the sun is out and it's convenient," says the 37-year-old sharpshooter, who lives in Lake Oswego with his wife and four children and a new wheaten terrier puppy. "What's going to happen in a month? What's going to happen in three months? These things take time to change. I just don't want America to divert their eyes to feel-good basketball."

In a conversation with WW Arts & Culture Editor Matthew Singer, Frye, who co-hosts the Talkin' Blazers podcast, discusses the unanswered questions of the NBA's restart plan, what the Blazers could potentially do in the playoffs, and the hot take that recently earned him death threats from enraged Michael Jordan fans.

See more Distant Voices interviews here.

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