NBA has a return date in their crosshairs


And now officially a target date.

The NBA hasn’t worked all the kinks out yet, but a return to date of July 31 is circled on the calendar.

In a world turned upside down by a global pandemic, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all for anyone, but it is a sign that our lives are at least beginning to get back to something resembling normalcy.

Of course when the game does return and the ball goes up, it will still be different from how we last left it.

The NBA will play their games within the locked community of Disney World in Orlando, Fla. if this does go ahead. They will do so without fans in the stands though the games will be available for viewing.

As for those of us that make our livings reporting on all things NBA the opportunity to do that will almost certainly be curtailed.

They may open the bubble city to a handful of national reporters that would serve as pool reporters of a sort for the rest of us, but in all likelihood the practice of doing our jobs via Zoom and conference calls will remain in place for some time yet.

It’s doable of course, though not ideal, but then who is going to complain?

The broadcasters who have paid for league rights will be taken care of because they have paid for that privilege. The rest of the media will take what is offered.

A July 31 target date for a re-start gives teams plenty of time to get back into game shape — two full months plus. But right now that is really all we know.

We don’t know how many teams will be returning yet. The push seems to be to bring back only the number necessary to make it fair.

The arbiter of what is fair will be commissioner Adam Silver. He conducted a two-hour board of governors meeting Friday hearing from his 30 member owners what they would like to see done.

But rest assured, what he’s hearing from the Milwaukee Bucks, who go into this thing with the best record in the NBA and a vested interest in Silver’s final decision, is much different from the bottom-feeding Golden State Warriors — who won just 15 games and are far more interested in maintaining their odds at a first overall pick in the lottery than they are in getting back on the court.

Silver has the super delicate task of trying to appease 30 teams with close to 30 different agendas. Sure the Bucks, Lakers, Clippers and Raptors will have similar wants given their top four seeding but what of the outliers like the Atlanta Hawks who have no shot at a title at all but would just like to see their young developing team get as much playing experience as possible.

Reading the tea leaves from what has come out of the various league meetings the past week, there are either going to be teams unhappy that they have to play with little to no shot of meaningful advancement, while at the same time there is the very real possibility that some teams may be told to stay home and call it a year despite their wish to play.

Silver has some very tough decisions to make but as he has shown in the past, he’s more than capable.

Like any good leader in any sport he has been making the rounds and soliciting the wants and needs of the 30 owners he serves as well as the 30 teams he oversees and just as importantly the 500 or so players that make up the league.

He’s got to balance safety for all those involved with those wants and desires of the team owners, and a separate wish list from league GMs. Then he’s got to make it palatable for the broadcasters whose big-money investments have to be recouped in some manner with the best rendition of the game that can be played as we all carry on under the shadow of another possible spike in COVID-19 positive tests that would make all of this moot.

ESPN got a look at the results of a GM survey done Thursday following those meetings. Not surprisingly, exactly 16 teams voted in favour of a plan that would see only the 16 playoff teams as of play through March 11 return and go directly into a playoff bracket.

The other three scenarios presented didn’t receive in total the support a direct-to- 16-team playoffs plan did.

The other three were:

* Resume the regular season with all 30 teams followed by a play-in tournament (8 votes);
* Go straight to the playoffs with either a play-in tournament or a World Cup-style group stage (5 votes)
* Resume the regular season with all 30 teams and then go straight to the playoffs (1 vote)

As for the format a playoff would take, again 16 were in favour of the traditional Conference seeding the league has always followed. The other 14 were in favour of reseeding the 16 regardless of conference.

Silver, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is expected to have hashed out the final plan with the Players’ Association within the week which he will take back to the board of governors for approval.