For months now sports fans everywhere have suffered through the absence of their favorite American past times. First, on March 11th, the Golden State Warriors to played the first NBA game without any fans present, which seemed to be where the league was trending universally. However, that was short lived as just the next day on March 12th, the NBA suspended the season after Utah Jazz teammates Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell tested positive for Corona Virus. That same day the MLB announced they’d be cancelling their season as well.
Now, basketball fans have a reason to celebrate as the NBA announced they will in fact, not cancel the current NBA season as many hoped, but that the season will start again July 31st. It will include eight regular season games and the playoffs and finals will run all the way through October 12th. Only 22 teams (those expected to make the playoffs or those in playoff contention still) with thirteen from the western conference and nine from the eastern conference will be invited to continue their seasons. Additionally, a play-in tournament will likely be used to determine who takes the final playoff seeding for each respective conference (a format unseen in the NBA thus far).
It is important to note that although all these details are part of the plan to resume expected to be passed by a vote among the owners and National Basketball Players Association, they are yet to be official or set in stone.
With the NBA season resuming in the next couple of months after months of absence, basketball and sports fans everywhere rejoice. However, the way this unprecedented situation has played out will certainly have many effects across the league. Let’s take a deep dive into what some of those may be:
A Now Rested Clippers Squad
As the second seeded team in the west and having the fourth best record league-wide at 44-20, the Clippers have their eyes set on a championship this season. However, much of what has kept them from truly dominating throughout the course of the season has been a plague of injuries. Their number one star player and the reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard has been criticized this season for load management. Meanwhile, his teammate, the six time all-star Paul George has been struggling against injuries all season as he’s injured the same hamstring on two different occasions.
First, George injured his left hamstring in a 140-114 exhibition loss verses the Memphis Grizzlies. Four days later in practice, he proceeded to aggravate that hamstring again. Then on February 13th, he injured the same hamstring yet again.
With five months of rest due to the delay of the season caused by coronavirus, the Clippers can now come back with their two franchise cornerstones and superstar players rested and be prepared to make a hard push towards an NBA title. George has averaged 21 points per game on 43% shooting this season along with shooting 40% from downtown and providing a solid 1.3 steals per game on the defensive end. Kawhi Leonard has provided a dominant 26.9 points per game on 47% shooting with an impactful mark of 7.3 rebounds per game and an elite 1.8 steals per game on defense.
Sighs of Relief for the Purple and Gold
The way this coronavirus situation has unfolded with the league is a bit of a double edged sword for the Los Angeles Lakers. The purple and gold pride of LA was on a roll having won eleven of their last thirteen games including statement wins over the league-wide number one seeded Bucks and the Western Conference second seeded Clippers prior to the league shutdown. With momentum in their favor and the Lakers continuing to fire on all cylinders (minus a puzzling loss to the Nets in their last game before the shut down), the Lakers were playing their best basketball of the season. Having the season stopped dead in it’s tracks just when they were catching fire certainly was not ideal for the Lakers by any means.
However, there’s also a silver lining. The Lakers should simply look at the overall outcome of the league shutdown and now resuming with optimism when the alternative is considered.
The Los Angeles Lakers are a dynasty with a rich history of success and have the second most championships of any team league wide with sixteen throughout its history. Additionally, thanks in large part to one of the greatest to ever touch a basketball known as none other than Kobe Bryant (rest in peace), the Lakers have dominated much of the 2000s. The team won five championships between the years of 2000 and 2010, however, after that they have struggled to find success much in the last decade as the Lakers have failed to make the playoffs in each of their last six seasons.
This season, with LeBron James having a year in LA under his belt in order to get acclimated along with the acquisition of All-Star Forward Anthony Davis this past offseason, the Lakers are back to their former “Showtime” glory. Chemistry has been amazing, role players like Dwight Howard and Danny Green have been making impacts, and the duo of James and Davis couldn’t be any more dynamic. All this has added to up the Lakers being the best of the West with an incredible record of 49-14 so far.
Had the season gotten canceled completely, frustration would be an underwhelming description of the reaction of the Lakers fanbase. LeBron James is now 35 years old while Davis is still very much free to leave the Lakers after this season if he so chooses. To have their first real championship hopeful season in close to a decade wiped away with those uncertainties looming would have been tragic to Lakers fans and the organization. Ultimately, the Lakers should look with optimism and gratefulness towards the fact the season is resuming at all.
A New Spin
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this plan to resume the season is the new win-and-in playoff format. All teams that are already top eight in their conference and projected to make the playoffs will continue their seasons along with the teams from each conference that are six games within the eighth seed and final playoff spot. The twist? For the first time in league history, if at the end of the season the ninth seeded team is within four games of the eight seed and final playoff spot, they play a single elimination game for that spot. This should provide the opportunity for invigorating matchups with entire seasons on the line in a format not before seen.
NBA fans everywhere indubitably have a lot to celebrate after hearing the season will in fact continue within just the next couple months. No need to fear sports fans, because NBA basketball will be back before we know it.
Headlines and stories to watch:
- The MVP Race between the King and the Greek Freak
- The Clippers chasing their first ever championship with the dominant two-way duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard
- The Bucks revenge tour towards a championship after being upset in the Eastern Conference finals last season
- Can the highly touted triple-double duo of James Harden and Russel Westbrook make a playoff run?
- Will we see an NBA Playoffs without Damien Lillard for the first time in seven seasons?