NBA: How the Return to Playing Can or Cannot Work


The rumors and buzz have finally come to an end. On June 4th, the NBA Board of Governors approved a competitive format in which 22 teams will return to the hardwood to resume the 2019-2020 season in Orlando, Florida at the ESPN World Wide Leader of Sports Walt Disney Resort. Speculation of the NBA first returning really started to surface once there was a private video call meeting amongst superstars; LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Damian Lillard. The call really was about under the right safety precautions, measures, and circumstances how the season would resume. Chris Paul, the president of the NBA’s Player Association, said that the opinions and decisions made from this call were without a doubt going to hold weight with the NBA Board of Governors’ final decision.

The new 22 team format includes 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams. The season will resume with all the teams playing eight remaining games for seeding purposes which may include a play-in tournament for the eighth and ninth seed. The following teams joining the top 16 teams from both conferences include; New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trailblazers, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, and Washington Wizards. These teams, from a realistic standpoint, still can mathematically fight for seeding rights in the bottom half of the conference standings.

NBA teams are expected to open a brief training camp in Orlando from July 9-11. The NBA will extend the regular season 16 days with five to six games per day. Playoffs are speculated to go from mid-August to mid-October but other guidelines that’ll be a part of the new format include four hours in between gameplay amongst three courts in the complex in order to accommodate space and cleaning.

In terms of how the NBA plans to handle the more important issue at hand; the COVID-19 virus, teams such as the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs are pro returning back to the hardwood but are very critical about how the league is planning on taking care of its rosters. Seeing that the COVID-19 virus is at a higher risk for those above the age of 50, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni (age 69), and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovic (age 71) are just a couple of examples of coaches that will more than likely not be in postseason play. So they both are making sure that everything will be in the correct order for the betterment of their health as they may be playing playoff basketball into mid-fall.

Sources told ESPN that the “NBA is planning to have uniform daily testing for the coronavirus within the Disney campus environment.” If any NBA player was to test positive for coronavirus, they will be pulled away from the team to self-quarantine as the team plays on. There seems to be a lot of optimism and confidence around the league about this being pulled off. Especially given the notable NBA summer dates such as the draft and the beginning of free agency working around the delayed regular season and playoff schedule.

You would think that there wouldn’t be mixed reviews about returning to play. From Damian Lillard to Kyrie Irving to Avery Bradley, there seems to be this surprising backlash and indifference towards resuming the 2019-2020 season. Irving and Bradley were a part of an 80 player group call recently questioning the NBA season reboot and what it would mean during the climax of a social justice movement and a low point in the United States.

The NBAPA Vice President, Irving, had stated “This is not about individual players, athletes or entertainers. This is about a group of strong men and women uniting for change. We we will not just shut up and play to distract us from what this whole system has been about: Use and Abuse.” Since Irving has come out and taken the initiative and let his stance be known, others have become more outspoken and come to his defense such as Dwight Howard.

The speculation on whether the NBA season should resume is catching more fire especially in the wake of the George Floyd, Oluwatoyin Salau deaths. The steering for social justice change is on a lot of minds. It is the right thing citizens should be focused on rather than a hoop, but with the NBA and ESPN having already hit the green light on resuming the season, the immediate future is quite cloudy. The return of the NBA would obviously bring people together during a difficult time in our society, but even with such a tactical blueprint to make sure the season resumes, there’s still no promise of a step forward until we get to July.

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