On March 11th, there was a shot heard around the league as a team doctor ran out onto the court to stop a game after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Shortly after, NBA commissioner Adam Silver suspended play with no promise of finishing out the remainder of the season. This felt like a day of reckoning of sorts, not just for sports but for the entire USA’s shift in attitude toward the coronavirus. Mark Cuban’s reaction to the news sums up how we all felt at the time.
However, after numerous pushbacks and meetings, the NBA is officially back on July 30th with the first playoffs games starting August 17th. The 22 teams involved in the restart have gathered at “The Bubble” in Orlando, FL where regular testing has shown promising results thus far.
Sources: Zero NBA players tested positive for coronavirus out of 346 tested at Orlando campus since last results were announced July 13.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 20, 2020
Social causes are being addressed through the main courts in The Bubble donning “Black Lives Matter,” and players have the option to change the name on their jerseys, which many have chosen to display “Equality.” Hopefully, they took some notes from the UFC and Professional Soccer.
The NBA season resumes on July 30 in Orlando.
Here is a closer look at the court, which features the phrase "Black Lives Matter" on it.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) July 21, 2020
There are some key differences in how this unusual postseason will play out, so let’s do a quick breakdown.
-Each of the 22 teams (13 from the West and 9 from the East) will play 8 games to determine final seeding. If the 9th seed is within 4 games of the 8th seed, there will be a wild card of sorts in which the 9th seed has to win twice to make the postseason.
-Notable players who will miss out on the return due to testing positive for COVID-19 include Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, and Taurean Prince. Russell Westbrook is expected to join despite testing positive.
-There will be no fans in attendance for the games in Orlando.
-The Finals will begin on September 30th.
Currently, Vegas has the Los Angeles Lakers with the best chance of winning the title (+240), followed closely by the Milwaukee Bucks (+250) and the Clippers (+330). After missing the playoffs for the past six years in a row, Lakers fans are hoping for yet another LeBron playoff transformation that brought his Miami and Cleveland teams a championship. The Bucks and the Clippers, however, would be happy with just one banner to hang up.
This unprecedented set of circumstances has forced one of the largest professional sports organizations to craft a postseason unlike any other. It will be interesting to see if any of these playoff changes will carry on to future seasons. The league has mulled over the possibility of abandoning conference playoffs in favor of a March Madness-like system. For now, it’s good to have basketball back in any form.