When the NBA season was suspended last March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fans all over the world cried in anguish. Many questions remained unanswered then. Which team would be crowned the world’s best for the year, after the end of the era of the Golden State Warriors? Was the war-weary Warriors’ reign really over? Would Lebron finally be able to lead the Lakers to the coveted crown? Would that give him a stronger case for the title as GOAT? Or would the LA Clippers, the new kids on the block – with 2-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard leading the charge – finally wrest control, not only of El-ay, but of the entire NBA world? Who’d take the MVP for the season? Will Giannis survive the onslaught coming from the great Lebron, the sweet-shooting James Harden, and that upcoming Euro star Luka Doncic? With all the recent realignment of stars, which dynamic duo or triple threat would be worthy of the championship trophy? Which young players will craft the direction for the next generation of NBA stars? These were just some of the exciting storylines that needed some answers, and had whetted the appetites of our fans across the world. (Pls read: The 2019-20 NBA Season: An Unfinished Business)
Today, we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The NBA approved a plan to restart the 2019-20 season with a restructured format which has 22 teams returning to play. The tentative start date is scheduled for 31 July. The plan includes a comprehensive program to prevent and mitigate the risks of acquiring the COVID disease, with strict testing protocols and safety practices.
Pending a final agreement with Walt Disney, the season restart will use the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, as the single site for all the games, practices and housing for the remainder of the season, including the playoffs.
There is the need for a shortened set of games to determine the final playoff spots in preparation for the grueling playoff run. At present, there remain 22 teams still in contention for the 16 playoff spots, hence the need for more regular season games. Once the 16 teams are identified, the NBA Playoffs would proceed in a traditional conference-based format with four rounds and best-of-seven series in each round. Based on this new sked and format, the NBA Finals should end no later than 12 October.
Assuming that the season resumes this 31 July, other significant dates to remember are: the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery on 25 August, the 2020 NBA Draft on 15 October, and the start of the 2020-21 NBA regular season which would likely be moved to 1 December. The Draft will feature the eight teams that do not participate in the restart, and the six teams that participated in the restart but did not qualify for the playoffs. These teams would be seeded in the lottery. The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.
So there. We are finally looking at finding a closure to this season’s many intriguing twists and turns. Under the backdrop of the COVID 19 health catastrophe, and the spate of racial violence that has hounded the United States recently, the NBA hopes to be able to help provide society with ways to diminish the impact of these issues. The games may not directly address the problems at hand, but suffice it to say that the return of the NBA is a calculated, yet timely approach that will help soothe the aches and pains caused by these difficult times. If all goes well, the NBA’s re-opening will be a beacon of hope, of love and understanding, and of brotherhood among men, as we all take small giddy steps toward the ‘new normal’.
We pray for the NBA’s success. May it guide us forward during these difficult times.
For a closer look, just click on the pics. Cover photo courtesy of NBC Los Angeles. Other photos courtesy of Pro Sports Fandom, The Athletic, ESPN.com, SB Nation, Hoops Heaven, CBS Sports, YouTube, Bleacher Report, San Francisco Chronicle and NBC Los Angeles.