The NBA is proceeding forward with plans to resume play in Orlando following a mini-offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The circumstances will be unlike any we have ever seen before, with each game being crucial for playoff chances and matchups. There will be a playoff atmosphere in every game, but with players that may be in various states of conditioning with the availability of gyms and team facilities being compromised because of the outbreak. Felix John-Baptiste and Justin Kirkland are back to weigh in on some of the growing sentiments surrounding the NBA’s return.
1. Players should sit out to amplify the effect of the protests.
Kirkland: Fake News. I initially thought that sitting out would be the right thing for NBA players to do. I can see the logic behind taking this moment and making a clear message by staying in the streets to prove that the world’s issues are beyond sports at the moment.
The difference here is that there is a global pandemic. When the NBA returns the world’s Blackest league will be the only live major domestic sport on television. Aside from questionable motives when dealing with China following the Daryl Morey tweet heard around the world, the NBA has been incredibly progressive and thoughtful with social issues. I have no doubt Adam Silver understands that more than just basketball needs to be on display during this time and will give his players every opportunity to amplify their voices during this moment.
John-Baptiste: Fake News. This is a tough one for me. Unlike protests in previous years, it feels like the entire world has eyes on this one. A weird silver lining of the global pandemic is that it ensures there are no typical “distractions” for the average Joe to be able to avoid the crisis at hand.
NBA players have already taken to the streets to protest with the citizens of their communities. We’ve seen the likes of Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and even Dennis Smith Jr. making their voices heard. While the NBA looks to resume their season in Orlando, it will dominate the calendar and attract many eyes potentially being the only professional sports league that’s live. Players can take advantage of that by continuing to make statements before and after games. What better way than to use their platform on national tv where all cameras are pointed and focusing on them.
2. The New Orleans Pelicans will make the playoffs.
Kirkland: Fake News. As awesome as Zion Williamson is and as good as Brandon Ingram has been this season, this is going to be grown man basketball to finish the year. In this unique situation, teams with battle-tested veterans and strong leaders will have an advantage with the season on the line and an environment where you have to play with high-level intensity without fans in the stands. If anyone is going to overtake Memphis ill lay my money with Damian Lillard who loses his regard for human life on the big stage.
John-Baptiste: Fake News. Not only do I not see the Pelicans making the playoffs, but I don’t see any of the teams trailing having the ability to usurp the Memphis Grizzlies. The bottom line is the Blazers, Pelicans and Kings all sit 3.5 games back, while the Spurs have. four-game deficit. Part of the NBA’s return is the have an eight-game regular-season warmup, with those games counting towards overall record. That is not enough for a trailing team to close the gap unless they are super hot and determined. The only team I give a chance to are the Blazers who have All-NBA, All-Star, and veteran talent on their roster.
Enjoy the final eight games of Zion Williamson’s rookie season, because they won’t be making the playoffs.
3. John Wall, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving should play.
Kirkland: Big Facts. I don’t see what the big deal is there is nothing to lose! I understand that John Wall and Kevin Durant have not played with all of their teammates and that there may be chemistry bumps with all three of these guys coming back from extended absences. However, playoff situations are about stars. Neither the Wizards or Nets are championship favorites so they might as well just load up and play some ball. John wall specifically said that he is “110% healthy” but stated this past week that he would not be playing. Kevin Durant made a similar statement as well. I just think if they are healthy and working out they might as well suit up.
John-Baptiste: Fake News. There’s no reason for any of these guys to suit up.
For John Wall, his Wizards sit 5.5 games back of the eighth playoff spot. Every team they’d play would be in playoff mode, jockeying for position or trying to get the final spot. Call me a pessimist, but playing in those high-intensity matchups after not competing professionally for more than a calendar year just doesn’t seem like a good idea.
The same holds for Durant. By the time the season resumes, he too will not have competed in more than a calendar year. Granted he was a top 3 player in the league last year, but expectations would be too high to risk anything this time around. Besides, nothing tells me that the current Nets roster is capable of eliminating the Bucks, Raptors, or Celtics in a seven-game series.
Irving has had a myriad of injuries throughout his career. Add the latest to his list. Both he and Durant deserve to start on a fresh slate, with a solidified head coach moving forward and a new season where everything is up for grabs. This season was a trial run anyway. Let’s hope we can see them at 100% next season.