The NBA is back. Or at least it looks like it's about to be back, per multiple reports from Woj and Shams. The season has been on pause since mid-March when the Coronavirus pandemic put a stop to just about everything around the world. July 31 appears to be the date the league will return in Orlando at the ESPN World Wide of Sports complex at Disney. There are plenty of questions about how this will work, and we really won't know the answer until the games start. Here's what the proposal looks like:
- 22-team format in Orlando
- Play-in tournament would only be for the 8th seed
- If 9th seed is 4 or more games back, 8th seed earns spot
- If 9th seed is 4 or fewer games behind, they enter a play-in tournament. Single-elimination for 9th seed and double-elimination for 8th seed.
It's nice to have the NBA coming back. Player and team safety remains a big concern and it's on the league to make sure that is all squared away as the teams head down to Florida. With the season on its way back, we ran through some of the biggest questions facing the league and how they might tackle those issues.
Will There Be an Asterik on This Season's Champion?
This is probably the biggest question fans are asking right now. With the NBA moving to a single site, there won't be a typical NBA playoff atmosphere. No homecourt advantage. No traveling. None of the little details that usually come with a playoff series. With that in mind, will this year's title look different compared to previous? If the Lakers win it, would anyone question it since they were the favorites all season long? What if a surprise team like the Nets get hot and win it all? Only time will tell, but the circumstances and outcome could surely determine how we look back at this season.
Will Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving Play for the Nets?
Speaking of the Nets, they're firmly in the playoffs despite Kyrie Irving missing most of the season and Kevin Durant sitting out entirley. Still, they're in the thick of the playoffs. The real question is: will Kyrie and KD play in the playoffs? Irving has been working out and KD will be over a year past surgery on his torn achilles. You could defintely argue that bringing them back in this sort of situation isn't ideal and it might not be worth it, but if the NBA season really does go until October, when will next season start? January? Are Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving going to want to wait that long to play again?
How Bad Does the NBA Want Zion Williamson in the Playoffs?
Before the NBA season was halted the Pelicans were making a strong run at the 8th seed in the West. In the proposed return to play plan, the Pelicans will be one of the 22 teams invited to Orlando. If they can get within four games back of the eighth seed when the restarted regular season ends, they'll be entered in the play-in tournament for the last West playoff spot. While there are other teams fighting for that spot, it's hard to imagine this isn't about Zion. The more Zion the better and with the uncertainity about how this all will look on the court, the NBA is going to need all the draws they can get for fans to tune in. We already know Lavar Ball wants that Pelicans vs. Lakers first round matchup, too.
Will the Players be Mic'd Up on the Court and How Will the Games Look on TV?
This is a bit in the weeds, but we've never seen an NBA game without fans before. We've also never seen NBA playoff games take place in a sports complex in Orlando. There's plenty of logistical questions, but what we hear during the games has to be the most fascinating part of this. Obvioulsy, there will be announcers calling the action, but without crowd noise, we'd get to hear the full range of emotions from the court. Is the NBA prepared to show that to the world? Well, that's the question at hand. In a similar boat, how are these games going to look on TV? With the 22 teams finishing up their regular season, why wouldn't the NBA do some sort of Red Zone type broadcast where fans can watch multiple games at once. That's a free idea, NBA. Use it wisely.
How Bad Will the Basketball Be?
You have to remember, all of these players are probably a little rusty. Even though teams like the Lakers have been working out and staying ready, there's no way there won't be some rust involved. Even with a two week training camp and some tune up games, the basketball might look ugly. Not to mention the fact that the players will have no familiarity with the courts they're playing on. We might be in for some rough play those first few weeks.