Any news is good news. That is the approach many sports fans (not baseball) are taking toward the slow comeback from an extended time off. According to Shams Charania and Sam Amick from the Athletic, the league is looking at Disney World in Orlando as a “front-runner” to hold games if/when the league returns in the upcoming weeks.
The NHL has also talked about what things will look like when they resume the 2019-20 season & postseason, including an expanded 24 team playoff. When looking at this, the first thing I thought was could this be where the NBA is going? The short answer to that should be no.
This whole NBA comeback plan is still in its infancy stages with questions: Will the NBA have all 30 teams comeback? Will they all play in 1-2 locations? Will they go straight to the postseason? What are the players feelings toward a possible resumption?
Those are good questions and the easy one to answer is the NBA having all 30 teams come back. Personally, I would say no.
When teams are talking about opening their facilities, most have more rules than a museum. Only four people allowed in the facility at one time, they must remain 12 feet apart, stagger practice times to reduce any interactions, basketballs must be cleaned and disinfected, and it goes on and on. The reason this is being done is to uphold competitiveness among the teams. Boston, Brooklyn and Philadelphia are among those that haven’t opened their training facilities while Orlando, Denver, Portland and others have.
There is a lot of work just to get into the practice facility, and if you’re a team like the Knicks, Suns, Timberwolves or Cavs would you want to go through all of this for a handful of games? Some players may have clauses in their contracts that may dictate how they feel, but the league would be better off only having to worry about 16 teams instead of 24-30 teams. The race for 8th in both conferences aren’t close. In the East, Orlando holds a 5.5 game lead over Washington, and in the west Memphis is in front of Portland, New Orleans and Sacramento by 3.5 games.
Where it gets interesting however is among the playoff teams. Most teams know where they are in the standings, but the 5 & 6 seeds in both conferences are tied and this could have an affect on the Celtics who are currently slated to play the 76ers who are tied with the Indiana Pacers.
This brings us to question number two. Will there be one or more locations? I would say one location.
We’re living in a world where long-distance travel is not encouraged. With players concerned about any exposure to COVID-19, an isolated community would make the most sense. The league may be looking at using Disney World, which has the ESPN wide world of sports complex and a nice basketball facility as well. The city of Orlando also other options, including the Amway Center, where the Magic play their games, or the Magic training facility which has hosted NBA Summer League in past years. If the league wants to cut down on risk of getting the virus a centralized location like this works best. There should be enough living space for players, families, among others from the league and television personnel inside the happiest place on earth.
This leads us to the biggest question, the reaction from players.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver held a teleconference with players recently and said “no decision we make will be risk-free.” Players want to get back to work, but they want to do so safely. What Adam Silver does could depend on what other leagues around the world do. The Bundesliga in Germany has started playing without fans. Korean Baseball has returned without fans, and other leagues will return without fans as well.
What this all comes down to is testing. Can the league get a large number of coronavirus test kits? Silver has said in the past that he doesn’t want to take tests away from those who need them. It appears testing is slowly getting better across the country, but there is word that the NBA is looking for 15,000 tests. That number may go back to why the NBA may be better off finishing with only its playoff teams on the floor.
Something to think about is how will players feel about going against another player that has tested positive. Steph Curry went on GMA and when asked that question he replied, “That would be tough, that’s a real scenario if you try to play and there’s no real vaccine there’s no way to guarantee nobody’s going to get it. I think if you’re at a place where everybody says yeah we’re ready to play and they know what they’re committing to and if not and it doesn’t make sense, then you’re not going to see a ball bounce.“
The players, coaches, announcers, camera operators and everyone else could be facing a big moment. An opportunity to find out who will win the NBA championship, an opportunity to see who will rise above the rest and an opportunity to start a roadmap back to a new normal.