We learned late last week that the NBA will be returning to action on July 31. The 2019-2020 season will resume with a 22-team format to restart the season. There will not be any home or away teams as all games will take place in Orlando.
I am sure the return will generate excitement as we will finally get to see live games. But the more I think of this format, the more I think people should temper their expectations. It clearly will be something we have never seen before.
There will be 13 teams from the Western Conference and nine from the East taking part. They will all play eight regular-season games, and then there could be a possible play-in tournament between the eighth and ninth seeds to determine which team makes the playoffs.
Things could get crazy in the West. The Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Jazz, Thunder, Rockets and Mavericks are all locks to make the playoffs. That means that the eighth and ninth seed will come down to a fight between the Grizzlies, Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, and Suns since none of them can catch up to the Mavericks who already have 40 wins. The Grizzlies have 32 wins and hold the eighth spot, while the Suns have 26 wins, and are the current 13th seed.
Those six teams have to decide if playing eight games is really worth it, given that only one of them will make the postseason, where they will meet the No. 1 seed, which is pretty much a guaranteed first-round loss. I looked it up. Only five teams have pulled off an 8 over 1 upset in league history.
In the East, things are simpler. The only way things could change is if the Wizards, who are the current ninth seed, go 8-0 while the Nets (7) and Magic (8) only win two, which would cause a logjam at the seventh, eighth, and ninth spots.
With the way things are proposed, it won’t be surprising if the 16 teams that would make the playoffs today are the same ones that qualify in August. This means that the eight games will benefit the teams that are currently lined up to make the playoffs more, while serving as a warmup for the postseason.
Speaking of crazy. Did I tell you that all 22 teams will be “quarantined” in their own bubble at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and will undergo daily coronavirus testing. And yes, there will not be any fans in the stands at any of the arenas being used.
Being quarantined in this case means that the teams reaching the Finals may be forced to stay in the “bubble” for close to three months. As I write this, it has yet to be determined how often players will be able to have family visit them at their hotels.
What I will be watching for is just how intense the games will be without fans in the seats? Some other things I will be watching is just how hard teams play that fall behind early in a playoff series? Will they just pack it in (and lose) so they can get out of the bubble and return home to family? What happens if a player chooses to leave the bubble when they discover they have more restraints on their life than the average Florida resident.
I also have to wonder if a few players test positive and have to be quarantined from the quarantined. We have seen playoff series in the past change course due to injuries. But what will happen if a star player tests positive but does not have any symptoms?
Lots of questions to be answered. New storylines. New drama. But again, it is the NBA.