NBA Playoff Preview By Matt Weber
With all that is going on in the world with the coronavirus and global civil unrest, the return of sports can be something to look forward to and unite people together.
Adam Silver, the NBA basketball Commissioner, was able to successfully negotiate between NBA players and NBA owners the creation of a 22 team playoff format. Everyone is aiming for a July 31st start date, but as we know, everything is subject to change for one reason or another. Of course, there are a lot of things that could go wrong with this format considering the pandemic is still going on. The NBA Players Association’s President, Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with numerous Vice Presidents of the Association, including Celtics shooting guard, Jaylen Brown and Pacers point guard, Malcolm Brogdon have been working closely with infectious disease specialists and government and health officials to make sure there is minimal riks for both players and their families.
Adam Silver released a statement recently saying, “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts.” If finishing the season is still possible, with minimal risks, I think Silver would have to try to get the NBA to come back, knowing also the possible risks of financial losses. He has seemed to be able to do this.
With everything sports-related being rescheduled, it also means the draft night for the NBA will be moved to October 15th and the beginning of the 2020-21 NBA season aims to return to full-time action on December 1. I feel like NBA fans won’t like that at first, but real NBA basketball doesn’t start till Christmas day. In addition, the 14 lottery teams would include the 8 teams that didn’t make the new playoff format and the teams that did not qualify for playoffs after the play-in round.
Teams not in the new playoff format currently are the Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks (shocking), Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
An important tidbit about this new playoff format is that Zion Williamson has the opportunity to bring the New Orleans Pelicans to the playoffs. If Zion and the Pelicans are able to make the playoffs, NBA ratings would spike significantly. With Zion being a potential new face of the NBA in the years to come, the Pelicans in the playoffs would showcase his abilities for both new and old audiences.
Each of the returning teams will play 8 games to determine the seeding for the playoffs. Each of the games will be chosen from the remaining team’s schedule. At the conclusion of the 8 games, the 7 teams with the best records, combined with the regular season and seeding games, would qualify for the playoffs. One interesting tidbit that the new format brings is that the 9th seed is for games or closer to the 8th seed in the standings, then they will play a number(s) of games to determine the 8th seed. The 8th seed will only have to beat the 9th once, but the 9th seed would have to beat them twice to take over the 8th seed.
The Lakers’ Avery Bradley has decided to sit out for the rest of the NBA season stating that he would rather be with his family and not risk his family’s health because his 6-year-old son has a history of respiratory problems. You really can’t blame him for not wanting to play. In other news, per Adrian Worjanoski, former Cleveland guard, JR Smith has become a leading candidate to replace him. Smith has been a teammate of Lebron’s in the past and has been a polarising player in year’s prior. If he can hit his shots, the Lakers have a decent chance. However, without Dwight Howard playing, the Lakers lack size when Anthony Davis isn’t on the court.
As of June 29, DeAndre Jordan has also revealed that he has tested positive for coroavirus. Jordan decided to opt-out and not join his team at the Disney compound. His teammate Spencer Dinwiddie has also tested positive and is strongly considering opting out as well. This is a tough series of events for the 7th seeded New Jersey Nets, losing both of their prominent rim protectors. A huge challenge for them will be protecting the paint against teams in the playoffs.
NBA players have never been afraid to voice their concerns about social and racial injustice in America. In the past, Clippers former owner Donald Sterling was banned permanently after recordings of racist remarks came out to the public. The Clippers’ players turned their jerseys inside out in a silent protest. Lebron, Kobe, James Harden, and Derrick Rose also wore shirts that said “I can’t breathe” in solidarity with Eric Garner, who was killed by an NYPD Officer in 2014.
This week the NBA and NBPA announced that “Black Lives Matter” will be painted on the court to make sure that basketball’s return does not take the spotlight away from a national movement. The NBA will also allow the players to change the name on the back of their jerseys with a statement for social injustice. Ja Morant had some feelings on that. Hopefully, this will allow people to gain some new perspective on what the black community has been going through for years.
Another question is going to be how in shape are the players going to be after a 4-month long break? Jayson Tatum didn’t touch a basketball for weeks when this all began 4 months ago. Jokic is looking thin, which can become a problem for teams if he can play extended minutes. As I was typing this, Woj tweeted that the Dever Nuggets have closed their practice facilities after members of the party traveling to Orlando tested positive for the virus. However, the facility would only be closed for a couple of days. On a more positive note, he tweeted moments later that the Nets would be re-opening their facility for practice.
Hopefully, both players and staff are able to stay healthy and can start doing what they love again, and we as their fans, get some unreal playoff basketball games and unforgettable moments.