The NBA is Back - Your Questions Answered
July 30. Mark it in your calendars. Basketball is back!
With the absence of sports for the past few months, this feels as big of a return as when Michael Jordan faxed the memo with the simple words "I'm back."
The NBA will return, but it won't be what you have been used to in any prior year. There is a significant amount of complexity that will be part of this return, of course with the prevalence of COVID-19, but also with an interesting new format. Let's break it down
What this about only 22 teams returning?
The league broad of governors have voted 29-1 (Portland being the only nay who wanted 20 teams to get invited) to restart the season featuring only 22 teams. The only teams that will be part of the re-start will be those that were either in, or had a "realistic" shot at making the playoffs. The 22 teams participating are:
Eastern Conference (9): Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards
Western Conference (13): Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns.
What about the 8 other teams?
The remaining teams will not participate in the remainder of the season. The goal is to limit the health risks as much as possible and only include teams that had a chance to make it to the playoffs.
The difficult part for these teams is they will not hit their local area TV thresholds and not receive a substantial amount of
How will the regular season end?
All remaining teams will play 8 games to finish the regular season. They will play according to their calendar. However the league knows most teams unable to finish their normal schedule with 8 teams being omitted from the games. At this point a new schedule will be made. The league will take into account the remaining strength of schedule for the teams pre-lockdown and schedule games reflecting that difficultly with the remaining 22 teams.
Moreover the final standings will be determined by each teams Win Percentage as teams will finish the year with an uneven amount of games completed. This means a team with less total wins can still possibly be ranked higher at the of the season.
Team A has played 72 games and have won 45. Their % is 62.5%.
Team B has played 70 games and have won 44. Their % is 62.8%.
In the above scenario, even though Team A has finished with more wins in the regular season, Team B has a higher Win Percentage and will be ranked higher.
After all that, the top 8 teams in each conference will advance in to the playoffs... however...
What is this about a play-in tournament?
Adding to the new rules, will be a rule that stipulates that if the 9th place team is within 4 games back of the 8th place team, there there will be a "play-in tournament". If they are not within the 4 games, then the 8th place team will automatically qualify. Only the 8th and 9th place teams will qualify for this if they are within the 4 game buffer.
How does the play-in tournament work?
Right away, it sounds completely unfair to the 8th place teams to have to do a play-in if they are a few games ahead, however to even the playing field, the league has made the play-in work the following way:
The 8th and 9th place team will play in a 1 game "tournament". If the 8th place team wins, then they automatically move on to the playoffs. If the 9th place team wins, then they will play a second winner-take-all game to see who will advance to the playoffs. This ensures the 8th place team has some level of advantage as they are the higher seeded team.
There have been a couple options thrown out with this but nothing yet confirmed by the NBA. Many expect the normal Eastern and Western Conference brackets to still be used. However, there is also word that the league is contemplating a full 1-16 re-order of all the teams that qualify for the playoffs. This has always been a popular request (especially from Western Conference teams) due to the overall dominance of that conference relative to the East over the past couple decades. This would result in a 1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, etc. format for the playoffs.
All games will be held in Orlando on the Disney complex at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Testing will occur daily for all personnel (players, coaches, staff, media, doctors, etc.).
Does this year's NBA Champion deserve an asterisk?
This is completely dependent on your view of the sport. There is no right or wrong answer. Also, having an asterisk may not be a bad thing necessarily, as it can also mean through some of the most difficult circumstances, a team has overcome all obstacles to be crowned champions. To me personally, this year's NBA champion will be remembered forever. That in itself has its own luster and appeal.
There's a lot yet to be determined like the final schedule and player protocols, but for many basketball fans