How will NBA handle potential resumption of season?
The only thing we know for sure about the state of the NBA season is the league plans to wait 30 days and then reassess.
At this point, no one knows when it will be safe and acceptable to play sporting events with fans in attendance. Playing games with no fans in attendance would certainly be easier to pull off, since in theory, all participants could be checked out ahead of time for risk of spreading the coronavirus.
While we're all waiting, here's a look at what the NBA season could look like if or when it does resume, along with the Bulls' chances of being included.
First of all, it's certainly possible that the NBA season does not resume, but there is time to wait. Commissioner Adam Silver suggested during a TNT interview Thursday that the Finals could be delayed until mid- to late-July.
Sporting events are obviously a huge part of American culture, so even a delayed NBA Finals with no fans at the arena would be valued as television entertainment.
When the timing is settled, the NBA will probably start by questioning whether to finish the regular season. When play was halted, the Bulls had 17 games left on their schedule.
On one hand, there doesn't seem to be much need to play the full 82 games. It also doesn't make sense to start back up with playoff games after a long layoff. There needs to be some kind of a warm-up, and not just a couple of exhibition games.
After 30 days, the league could decide to assess the health of its players, reschedule every game left in the regular season and play it out to 82 games. This would most likely happen without fans in the arenas.
Another option could be playing a shorter end to the regular season, like maybe five or six games, so teams would have a chance to get back into game shape before moving onto playoffs.
To cut down on travel, one option could be to limit the end-of-season games to division opponents only. It wouldn't necessarily be fair as far as strength of opponents, but it could make sense. The Bulls still have road trips to Orlando-Miami, Houston-San Antonio and a five-game West Coast trek on their slate.
As much as fans might want to see more of rookie Coby White in the starting lineup, it wouldn't make sense for a team like the Bulls, with little shot of making the playoffs, to wait around for a month or more, only to play a few meaningless regular-season games.
So including all 30 teams in a revised playoff format figures to be a possibility. The league has already discussed adding play-in games for the bottom playoff spots, similar to baseball's wild card games.
Here's one way that could happen: A series of one-game playoffs featuring the bottom nine teams in each conference, to decide the No. 7 and 8 seeds. This would require a total of seven games in each conference.
Since there are an odd number of teams, this plan would start with a game between the bottom two teams -- Cleveland and Atlanta in the East. The winner of that game would play the Bulls, while Detroit and New York square off in the other second-round game.
The two winners would advance to a third round to face Charlotte and Washington. Those winners would meet Brooklyn and Orlando with the final two full playoff spots on the line.
That's just one idea. The regular playoffs could be shortened to best-of-five or best-of-three. Maybe the league would make the first two rounds a best-of-five, then move to best-of-seven for the conference finals and Finals.
If games are played without fans, it could make sense to hold the games at neutral sites and minimize travel. The league would presumably choose cities that are centrally located and have hotels available to host multiple teams, while probably avoiding crowded cities like New York and Los Angeles.
This is an unprecedented situation in American sports history, at least since the Spanish flu canceled the Stanley Cup Finals in 1919. The NBA figures to proceed with caution, but there are benefits to finishing the season, ranging from added revenue to improving morale of sports fans.
The Olympics are scheduled for July 24 through August 9 in Tokyo. Obviously, those Games could end up canceled or postponed. If the NBA season continues into July, the league probably wouldn't hesitate to send a team of G-League stars in the place of NBA players. Many NBA stars would probably pass on an overseas trip under these conditions anyway.
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