COVID-19 has had a radical effect on athletics, playing havoc with the MLB season and putting the NFL’s training camps in perilous territory. Basketball is no exception; it’s felt the wrath of the coronavirus pandemic the same as everyone else. Now, however, plans are in place to return.
A strange finale in Orlando
As of March, the NBA was full speed ahead with a few minor changes despite the advent of the Coronavirus. The league intended to play its games, just without the fans present. Games would occur as scheduled in front of empty stadiums. Fans would have to catch the games on TV. It was a huge financial loss to the NBA, but it was better than nothing. That changed in an instant though.
After very publicly voicing skepticism over the coronavirus, Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Prior to the diagnosis, Gobert pulled a stunt during a pregame press conference, touching everyone’s microphones. Soon, other members of the Utah locker room tested positive. That’s when the NBA pulled the plug on the season.
The plan as of now is to finish the year with an amended schedule. As of July, 22 teams will converge on Orlando to complete their 2020 schedule. The 22 teams were determined based on the 16 teams from both Eastern and Western conference with the best record when the season was put on hold. The remaining eight teams are all in the hunt for the eighth seed.
After a brief, two-day training camp, the teams will play a seeding tournament to determine the remainder of the season. From there, the tournament is expected to be aggressive with up to five games per day. After the initial seeding phase, there will be a playoff and championship, all hosted at Disney World.
A season with an asterisk
Recently on his podcast, coach Steve Kerr commented on the idea that the winner of this season will somehow be less of a champion than during a regular season. Many fans and analysts believe that the shortened season format won’t be as meaningful.
Playing multiple games a day gives players the advantage of being continually warmed up, but it also doesn’t allow a lot of rest in between games. The physical conditioning and mental attitude necessary to win is going to be grossly altered from a normal season.
Doc Rivers and Coach Kerr shut that idea down during the podcast. Rivers, who was the guest on the show, said, “There’s a chance you don’t see family members for a month, two months…it’s gonna take more than normal. Like a focus, patience.”
In his opinion, the mental fortitude necessary to win the abridged tournament will need to be greater than anything players experience during a regular season. Coach Kerr replied, “You know, the whole asterisk thing, screw that. Anybody who goes and stays in a hotel room in Orlando for months deserves a championship, right?”
If anything, down time during the pandemic, coupled with the aggressive schedule going forward, puts players at a physical and mental disadvantage. Coach Kerr believes it will take an iron will to overcome those hurdles. Maybe the asterisk should read “Champion against all odds.”
Some are opting out
Not everyone is excited about the NBA’s plan. Of the 30 NBA franchises, only the Portland Trailblazers voted against it, stating there were better alternatives to end the season. And not every player is eager to return. Carmelo Anthony was the first player to state that he doesn’t intend to participate. A small fraction of players are also respectfully declining including Kyrie Irving and Dwight Howard.
Despite how the season’s conclusion plays out, it’s already one for the record books. Coach Kerr might be out of luck; it’s not whether there will be an asterisk by the season, but what that asterisk will say.