NBA’s Plan To Come Back

Stop the asterisk nonsense.

Jim Rome
June 04, 2020 - 11:15 am
Adam Silver

USA Today

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Alvin, I’m looking for a particular drop right here. Something that lets me know it’s time for the NBA to play again. Do you have anything like that? LET’S PLAY SOME BASKETBALL!!!!

Hell, yes. That’s what I’m talking about.

The NBA’s Board of Governors is voting on a plan that would represent a return to the 2019-2020 season. The plan is for 22 teams to head to Disney World with the intent of restarting on July 31st.

The 22 teams would include the 16 teams currently in the playoff spots, plus six additional teams that are within six games of the final playoff spot. That means that New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio, Sacramento, Phoenix, and Washington are all going to Orlando as well.

And it means we’re going to get more Zion, more Dame, more CJ, more Aldridge, more Pop, and so on. 

Teams will play eight more regular season games and then there might be a play-in tournament for the 8th seed in both conferences, if the ninth place team is within four games of the eighth place team.

So that’s the plan. And that’s the easy part. The hard part is actually pulling it off. As hard as it was to figure out the number of teams, and a format, and a schedule, the hard part is going to be the daily testing, and the restrictions on player movement when they’re not playing.

Its one thing to tell guys not to shower after games or to sit far apart when they’re on the bench, but the other 20 hours of the day are going to be a challenge for everyone involved. And then what happens if a player tests positive? And what happens if that player is a key player? What if Giannis or LeBron test positive for the virus in the playoffs?

And that brings me to the other point – at this point, we have no idea how this will impact all of the teams. There are probably going to be some teams who respond to this challenge and this format better than others.

There are probably going to be some teams who show up in Orlando red hot and get on a roll, while others are out of shape, sluggish, and just never get right. There is definitely going to be a concern about conditioning and soft tissue injuries when the league first starts up again.

But let me cut off this dopey debate before it starts. If LeBron James and the Lakers win a ring this year, it is legit. It is not tainted. It is not cheapened. It is real. So don’t be trying to throw an asterisk on them if it happens. The Lakers have been the best team in the Western Conference all season. LeBron and Giannis have been the only real MVP candidates all year.

If LeBron, an MVP candidate, playing on the best team in the Western Conference all season, wins a ring in a playoff run of seven-game series, it is legitimate. That’s not a fluke. There is no asterisk. There is no “yeah, but it was held in Orlando during a pandemic.”

Yes, and? I could make the argument that having the season stopped for four and a half months and having to play in a bubble in a theme park might make things even more challenging than it would be in any other year. Playing games next to a rollercoaster and without a home court advantage might make it tougher not easier. And if you overcome that, you earn what you get. And have nothing at all to apologize for. 

And the same goes for Giannis. If he wins a title this year, there’s no “yeah but” on that ring either. He’s the reigning MVP playing on the team with the best record in the regular season. You do that and then roll. Through the playoffs, you’re a worthy champ. And don’t let Phil Jackson or any other hot take artist tell you otherwise. 

So at this point, in June, nearly two months before the season restarts, if either the Lakers or the Bucks win, there’s no questioning the outcome. If either of the two best teams in the regular season win the title, they have a legit claim to the crown.

Now, there are two caveats to all of this. One would be if a team that is currently a low seed or not even in the playoffs, gets red hot and storms through the playoffs to win the title. That would incredible to see. Brass as hell.

And maybe if they get a lot of luck along the way, you could question it. But at the same time, it would be impressive as hell to go from outside the playoffs or a low seed, to winning the playoffs in a theme park.  Id argue that winning it all is tougher not easier given the way the world is now, and that WHOEVER wins it all has absolutely nothing to apologize for.  Not only is it not cheapened but it will be one of the most impressive, intriguing wins ever.  .  

Sure… a big-time star could test positive during a playoff series and have to be quarantined for 14 days. Hopefully that never happens, but if it does, does that change how the playoffs are viewed? Maybe. Possibly. But then again, how would that be different from a serious injury? And injuries are always part of the game.

Here’s what we know now. The league is giving itself a chance to finish off the season. Yes, it’s happening in an empty arena at the home of Mickey Mouse, but its still basketball. And that’s something.  

And I know Fergie is fired up about that.

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