Big Facts or Fake News? The Quarantine Games

NBA Bubble

How many historical events will NBA Commissioner Adam Silver have to navigate during his tenure? On Wednesday, March 11th, Silver unprecedentedly suspended the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season. It was on that same day the Utah Jazz announced that All-Star center Rudy Gobert was the first player to test positive for the coronavirus (aka COVID-19).

While fear grew around the globe of this rapidly spreading pandemic, the sports world seemed to stop breathing. Think about the fear exuded as the Night King approached Brandon Stark, leaving fans in a state of extreme anxiety. Overall, no one knew (and still don’t know) what comes next.

As we take all the necessary precautions and monitor daily happenings, it becomes easy to slip into a redundant cycle. Luckily, your favorite committee of two, Justin Kirkland and Felix John-Baptiste are here to offer some distraction. Will we see a 2020 NBA postseason? How will this abrupt stoppage impact the timeline for next season and beyond? Sit back and enjoy as they offer some insight into the various floating ideas and rumors.

1. The NBA will scrap the remainder of the 2019-20 season in its entirety and start fresh next season.

Adam Silver
Photo via Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images North America

Kirkland: Big Facts. Players are now sick. The thing about this virus is that we have never seen anything like this before. The virus could go away in the summer, or it could be like the Spanish Flu of 1918 and come back with more muscle in the fall. Several players from various teams have tested positive and more names will follow. Vaccines are said to be 12-18 months away at best. I do not see how the NBA will be able to complete this season unless the coronavirus pulls a disappearing act. 

John-Baptiste: Fake News. It seems very unlikely that the NBA does completely away with this season and moves on. There were too many storylines, historical implications and simply too much money to be lost by not having the playoffs. In an ideal world, the league comes back with a 5-10 game ramp-up period followed by the playoffs. However, we’re not living under ideal circumstances.

Assuming the coronavirus keeps society on pause for some time, any warm-up games may be kept to a minimum (which would obviously be dangerous for players’ health). Every idea in the book has been floated around to re-jiggle the playoff format including best of 3 (or 5) series, and even single-game elimination for early rounds. No matter the outcome, it’s tough to imagine a world in which you read “2019-20 NBA Champion: *Cancelled Season*”.

2. If the NBA does have to cancel the season, they should still give out annual awards.

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Photo via Gary A. Vasquez / USA TODAY Sports

Kirkland: Big Facts. Most of the season is done. I would have loved to see LeBron make a final push, but unless Giannis Antetokounmpo had a tremendous drop-off the MVP race was decided. Zion Williamson and Ja Morant have the same story for the Rookie of the Year race. The only thing in question was playoff positioning. We have seen enough to give out the individual awards. 

John-Baptiste: Big Facts. These players go through rigorous mental and physical training year after year to put the best performances out on the court. With more than 75 percent of the season being played, it’s more than enough of a sample size to give these awards out. Of course, there are arguments to be made for those who could’ve closed the game in the last quarter of the season. However, those circumstances are uncontrollable at this point. If we can’t have a champion, we can at least see who gets the individual accolades.

3. NBA players will benefit physically from this extra time off.

LeBron James
Photo via Harry How / Getty Images

Kirkland: Big Facts. I think all of us can come back from this time rejuvenated if we use it correctly. Besides sadly burning a piece of the time we have left with a high-level LeBron James, the time will serve the league well. Players often play injured to avoid losing their spot and compete for their team. That pressure and grind are now gone and everyone will be able to focus on solely rehab work and resting when necessary. Damian Lillard was just coming off of an injury and preparing to lead Portland into an all-out brawl for the 8th seed in the West. His career will certainly benefit from the added time to heal. I think when the NBA comes back we will get the highest-level basketball in quite some time.

John-Baptiste: Fake News. This time off is actually devastating. Not only will their bodies have aged a year by next season, but veterans essentially lose a year of their prime and career.

What LeBron James was able to accomplish this year may look very different next season. Kawhi Leonard will likely continue to load manage, while the Clippers lose a year of his contract. The SMALL silver lining is that the Splash Brothers will be back, including the new Brooklyn Nets tandem of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo will sign a supermax extension this summer. 

Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Kirkland: Fake News. The Milwaukee Bucks were hoping to have a good enough showing in this year’s playoffs to convince Antetokounmpo to forgo his free agency and sign a supermax extension, something only Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers has done to date. 

The should-be MVP may elect to stay in the long haul, but may understandably be hesitant to go under contract for the rest of his prime with a franchise that has yet to reach their conference championship aspirations. The Bucks may be the biggest losers out of the seasonal suspension. They may be robbed of the opportunity to top a dominant regular season off with a strong enough run to convince Antetokounmpo to stick around. I think Giannis will keep his options open and both parties will go into the 2020-2021 season with an immense amount of pressure on either side.

John-Baptiste: Fake News. The fact of the matter is the Bucks haven’t really proved anything. They are a great regular season team that has fallen short in the playoffs. Without the vision of long term success, it’s hard to see Giannis commit without seeing the team’s full potential. In this sports environment, we’ve created a culture that glorifies rings and almost nothing else. Back to back MVP seasons will only do so much justice, if not validated with a title. Holding off will also place a sense of urgency on the organization to do whatever it takes to put themselves in the best position to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy.

5. Brett Brown will be the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers next season.

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Kirkland: Fake News. The 76ers are due for a change. Philadelphia is wildly talented and has a roster deep enough to be listed as contenders for the next few seasons. Two second-round knockouts and a roller-coaster season in 2020 had many wondering how warm Brown’s seat would be heading into the playoffs. The postseason would have been Brown’s opportunity to prove that this group is ready-built for a run and not just oddly-fitting overachievers. 

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid both battled injury this season and should be separated but front offices are always hesitant to give away players that have top tier talent. The more likely initial change would be to make a swap at the head coaching position. Before the 76ers entertain breaking up the roster they may consider moving Brown first and hoping for change.

John-Baptiste: Fake News. Maybe the last piece of ‘The Process’ is to complete it with a new jolt of energy — a respected head coach. On one hand, you can point fingers at the GM for not surrounding the team with the necessary shooting it needs for spacing around its two All-Stars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. On the other hand, you can see the on-court product and sets run don’t best suit those stars when they share the floor.

They’ve heard the noise surrounding the organization, and how they should look to trade one of their assets. However, before it’s too late, they should look into new leadership. If that does the trick, you can save the franchise and it’s fans any misery to come.


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