Even with mid-June restart, NBA has time to finish playoffs
Now that it's looking like mid-June for the earliest possible resumption of the NBA season, plenty of new questions arise.
Obviously, canceling the rest of the season is a possibility, but it sounds like the league would prefer to get it going again, as would most every bored sports fan across the country.
For starters, it would be pretty easy to resume practice. Most NBA teams have private practice facilities now and they all have the means to monitor the players' health closely.
If they're going to wait this long, the obvious solution is a shortened playoff format that includes all teams. The best-of-five first round used to be a lot of fun, so no real downside there.
The hardest part will be deciding when it's appropriate to start playing some games. As I've mentioned before, they can't take three months off, then start back up with playoffs. There needs to be some prelim games, whether they count as part of the regular-season standings or not.
My suggestion is four games - every team plays the four other teams in its division to cut down on travel. Four should enough, since all these teams played 65 games during the pre-social distancing era. There's been talk about playing the games at practice facilities, but it hardly matters whether it's that or empty arenas.
What probably won't make sense is bringing five teams to one site. In theory, you could have the Central Division teams meet in Chicago and play a series of warm-up games at the Advocate Center in a controlled environment. But what happens in between games when the players go back to the hotel and eat meals? It's probably a better scenario for teams to get on their private plane, play a road game, return to the airport and head home that night.
Anyway, once teams get a few games in, it's time for the postseason to begin. For a new format, I prefer more of a ladder bracket to avoid lopsided first-round matchups.
My suggestion is the top four teams in each conference get double-byes, the No. 5 through 9 seeds get a first-round bye, while 10 through 15 play a best-of-three, first-round series.
This would put the Bulls in a first-round series against Atlanta, with the winner moving on to play No. 6 Philadelphia. The other first-round series would be Knicks vs. Pistons, winner gets No. 5 Indiana; and Hornets vs. Cavs, winner gets No. 7 Brooklyn. The other second-round series would be set with No. 8 Orlando vs. No. 9 Washington.
The first two rounds probably need to be best-of-three, otherwise the teams with double byes will be waiting around for a long time. Best-of-five for the third round should work.
So how long will that take? If the warm-up games started in mid-June, they could get to the third round in about three weeks. A best-of-five third round and best-of-seven conference finals would put the Finals in early August, which would fit the time frame.
This schedule would overlap with the Olympics, if that's not canceled. I think most people in the U.S. would gladly trade Olympic basketball for a finish to the NBA season. If the Olympics are played, just send G-League players or guys who get eliminated from the playoffs early.
Could be looking at you here, Zach LaVine.
There are a few more calendar questions. Does the league have to wait for the season to end to hold the draft? I'd say probably not, but postponing the draft until the season ends seems to be the traditional method. Maybe mid-August after the Finals end. Free agency could be in September.
Does the Las Vegas summer league need to be rescheduled? No, skip it.
When does next season start? That's a good question. After taking three months off in the spring, does the league really need another three months off in the fall?
An argument could be made for just starting next season on time or maybe pushing the whole thing back two weeks. The total league revenues are linked to the salary cap that affects player salaries. So both sides would have incentive to play 82 games next season. Between the China tweet and the coronavirus, the NBA has lost plenty of revenue this year.
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