There’s a real chance that the next NBA season starts just before Christmas, per this report from ESPN. What’s your reaction?
Ryan: “Logistics are my favorite part of basketball,” said someone, but definitely not me. While some enjoy knowing every line to the Collective Bargaining Agreement and understanding every detail of the salary cap, I just really enjoy watching and analyzing basketball. So, what does a pre-Christmas mean for the game of the basketball? Well, a lot.
The first thing I thought of was the incoming rookies. If the NBA starts on December 22, rookies will only have 33 days with their team before opening night. That’s not a lot of time for anyone, but especially guys who are “projects”. For example, take Aleksej Pokusevski, who has loads of talent but only weighs 195 pounds. You can only eat so much Whataburger in 33 days. If a team is wanting an immediate rotation player, maybe they draft someone more established but with a lower ceiling than these “risky” prospects.
The second thing I thought of was the health of Kristaps Porzingis. I’m not a doctor and will never pretend to know what I’m talking about medically. WebMD tells me recovery after a meniscus tear can take up to three months. I’m also pretty sure they’re saying that timetable is for a normal human being, not a 7-foot athletic anomaly with funky mechanics. Even if Porzingis is recovered, how much does he really play? Remember, he hasn’t played in a back-to-back since December 8 2019.
If you thought bubble basketball was interesting, I believe we’re in for a treat when the NBA (attempts to?) plays a full season of basketball during a pandemic after the shortest off-season ever.
Josh: I’ll be honest and try to keep the real world talk as brief as possible: I have COVID fatigue. I understand that initially the NBA wanted to wait as long as possible to try and hope things are better to get more fans into the arena, but honestly, what’s changing between now and a theoretical February or March start date? It just feels like that the country is going to be the way it is until there’s a vaccine, for a laundry list of issues that don’t pertain to this blog. So I totally get the NBA for just wanting to start the season as soon as it can, so that the 2021-2022 season is about as normal as it can be. It makes the most sense.
I just wonder if they can pull it off. In thinking about this Dec. 22 start date, I totally didn’t consider the ramifications of the draft. So draftees are going to go from drafted to playing NBA games in a month? That seems wild. No summer league, no real off-season work with coaches, no real preseason, shortened training camp. It just sounds like a disaster for the 2020 class. You also have to think about teams that had deep playoff runs in the bubble — their off-season is considerably short. But then again, what about the teams that stopped playing in August? Or the ones that didn’t even go to the bubble and haven’t played games since March? The point is, all of this is really, really, hard and there likely isn’t a “right” decision. So playing sooner and just clenching your teeth and getting through another weird season so you can preserve future seasons makes sense.
Matt: The start date isn’t going to feel right no matter what since there are teams that haven’t played since March and teams who just left the bubble a couple weeks ago. As it pertains to the Mavericks, the later the better considering lingering injuries to Powell and Porzingis. It also kinda feels a little arbitrary that the stated goal is to play 72 games. That is, they’re already committing to a shortened season, but not shortening it enough to give themselves any breathing room. To fit in a 72 game season plus a post season puts them on breakneck pace to finish before the Olympics, which at one point was a state goal.
While I’m sure league shareholders and those who stand to benefit the most from playing more games are eager to get as close to the old normal as possible, as a fan, my main concern is not to have a player break in half from a shortened timeline. (Mind you, before Luka’s rookie season, he flew straight from winning a championship to the draft.) That said, these are some of the world’s best athletes, and if measures are taken to allow them to play at a high level, then who am I to say they shouldn’t? Logistically, it’s a whole ‘nother can of worms. With how well the NBA bubble went compared to the clown show that the NFL is putting on currently, I’d hate to lose some of the shine the league picked up from a flawless bubble execution.
Kirk: I laughed because I just couldn’t believe it. But after hearing this most recent Hoop Collective podcast, it’s clear as can be to me that the NBA is very concerned about the finances of the league. It’s just not easy; the NBA’s had a lot of things go wrong in the last 12 months, dating back to the incident with Daryl Morey and China all the way through with Covid-19.
But it makes sense. In the last decade, we’ve all collectively gotten used to an every rising pot of “Basketball related income” (BRI), which translates to higher player salaries. From all my reading, the league and the NBPA will likely do whatever they can to limit the losses to both sides which means playing more games to hit those minimum game counts for media rights deals. It’s unfortunate that this is so vested in the almighty dollar.
I’ll take basketball in any form, but I’m a bit concerned for the quality of play, for health of the players, and for my own sanity because covering a game every other day for 6 months is hard.