The NBA has been shutdown since the 11th March & we are no closer to knowing if or how the 2019-20 season resumes. As basketball fans we all crave seeing the Magic back on the court but is it realistic to do so? Let’s take a quick look at what is being talked about online & in the news.
The current buzz is around the League being centred within one central location. Vegas was previously mentioned but at this time its centring upon Orlando & Walt Disney World at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. There appears to be a desire from players, teams & the NBA to get things going again but little else is known & nothing is being said officially. The Magic CEO; Alex Martins is quoted as saying that the League could play as late as Labor Day to get as much of the season completed as possible, which is September 7th this year.
The logistics of recommencing the season are complex & wide ranging.
What Are The Issues?
Firstly a decision has to be made over if the season resumed with the regular season recommencing or would we head immediately to the playoffs with the standings being determined by the position when the NBA was suspended? To go directly to the playoffs brings the question of is it fair to the chasing teams outside the playoff positions? In the East there was probably little question that the 8 teams were locked in but seeding issues remained. In the West could Portland in 9th (16 games remaining) have overhauled a 3.5 game deficit to the Grizzlies (17 games remaining)? They had 2 head to head games to still come, both in Portland.
There also has to be time for what is effectively a preseason to allow players to gain fitness & teams to gel. The earliest competition could legitimately start is mid July to early August. That would see a delay to the beginning of the 2020-21 season, likely being December instead of the usual late October of Opening Night.
The delay in any resumption of play in this season impacts upon the off season with free agency, everything to do with the NBA Draft & Summer League. The question has to be asked of would Summer League even go ahead? Whilst not essential it is a showcase for those young players who missed being selected in the draft & journeymen seeking an opportunity to perhaps attract a team with their performances. Free agency was due to begin June 30th (I think) so there would be issues around players contracts to resolve. For the Magic there are 9 players with contracts to resolve including Evan Fournier, DJ Augustin, Michael Carter-Williams, Wes Iwundu & James Ennis.
A major issue to be resolved is around testing of all those involved. Don’t make the mistake of thinking we are talking about only the players here, there is the coaching staff, back room staff, match officials, scorers & a whole host of others who will be needed to run a game safely regardless of there being no fans present. It is likely families would be allowed to travel also as it is unreasonable to expect people to be away from their family for such an extended period.
The tests would have to be those where a result is known within a short period for them to be of any value & testing would have to be prior to every games. Whilst a figure of the test numbers required isn’t exact it is being estimated that the number would be around 100,000! I am unclear if this is just for those required for games or if that includes families going into the NBA “bubble” as it is being called. That would not play well in the court of public opinion where key workers are still not able to get adequate numbers of tests. Further to this would there also be a need for face masks for those with underlying health issues or being of more advanced years.
The NBA Commissioner; Adam Silver has said there is no rush to make decisions & we are seeing some tentative moves in the direction of resumption.
The Magic are reopening their training facilities from Friday, May 8th. There are restrictions on entry to the building in the form of a temperature & symptom check. All personnel will have to wear masks, the exception being for players during their workout. Only 4 players will be allowed in the facility at once & only one per basket. NBA instructions make it clear the reopening is for individual fitness & shooting practice, not for running drills, practice games or contact. There will be no head or assistant coaches present, it will be people such as the fitness & shooting coach who are present. Mr Martins has also said that there will be a complete deep clean every night.
In fact Evan Fournier had already been granted special permission from the NBA to resume training since last Friday, May 1st as part of his rehabilitation from the elbow injury which had seen him sidelined prior to the lockdown of the season. It has also been reported that Spalding sent every team instructions on how to disinfect & clean basketballs
Call The Season
At this time our opinion at Orlando Magic U.K. is this: call the season over & set things in motion for the 2020-21 season, whenever that may be & in whatever form a reimagined season may take. We are more than open to a redesigned League, expansion or a change in the calendar period the league is played. OMUK all agree that whilst risk is present to the public worldwide & particularly to any member of our front line staff such as health workers, police staff, fire & so many other great people working then those precious tests should not be directed towards any professional sport…regardless of how much we want to see it again!
There is the question also present that whoever is eventually crowned World Champions (which by the way is stupid, it’s a national competition!) of a restarted league would potentially have an asterisk by the title in the record books, it being forever tainted by the altered conditions any games are played in.
We want to finish by saying how grateful we all are to all those key & essential workers who are doing their bit for us all. We salute & applaud you all.
Be well, stay safe & stay home as we all tackle this pandemic together.