The Return of Sports: NBA Announces Target Date, Gov. Baker Permits Resumption of Sports Practices

The MLB is nowhere near an agreement for a return to play, as both owners and players try to minimize financial losses, and I’ll be reporting on that situation eventually. But in today’s column, I wanted to talk about the NBA’s updated plans for return and governor Charlie Baker’s update on Boston sports. Despite so many unknowns, coronavirus numbers have continued to decline, allowing people to begin thinking about returning closer to normal, and a return of major sports leagues would absolutely bring us closer. With multiple pieces of very good news in the sports world today, I have plenty to talk about in this column.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Permits Sports Practices to Resume

Boston sports facilities will be allowed to reopen on June 6, according to Governor Charlie Baker. This opens the door for sports to return in the city of Boston, and with major sports leagues trying to coordinate returns, that is very good news. Sports will not come back until there are enough cities permitting their return. Boston joins the list. As a result, the Celtics will be opening the Red Auerbach Center, their own practice facility. Hopefully, this also opens the door for the TD Garden to be considered as a central hub for NHL games, since the Bruins are the #1 team in the Eastern Conference and would benefit from some form of home field advantage, even without fans in the stadium.

Adam Silver Announces Intention for 7/31 NBA Return

Adam Silver announced today that he is hoping for a July 31 return for the NBA. He had already said he was targeting late July/early August, but it’s good to hear a definitive date. It would be nice if they could start a little bit earlier, but it gives the league time to work towards gameplay, starting with small group training, then moving into formal training camp, and then finally playing games, just like the NHL. Below is what we know and how I think this plan will play out.

What We Know (The Facts)

  • The league will resume in one central hub: Orlando, Florida
  • Games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World
  • The league may also consider using the Orlando Magic stadium or the UCF stadium for games
  • For when the league does return, there are four potential formats being discussed:
    • A 16 team format
    • A 20 team format
    • A 22 team format
    • A 30 team format
  • The league is unsure whether the regular season will be continued or whether the league will skip to some sort of playoff

As you can see, not much has been decided yet, but at this point we know the league has picked a location, has a proposed return date, and is working to decide on a format.

What the Logistics of a Return could Look Like

The NHL has already established a format for the postseason, and I went ahead and speculated what the timeline could look like. The NBA already has somewhat of a timeline, but below I have proposed a playoff format that I think will fairly decide an NBA champion and written how the logistics of it could work out:

20-Team Playoff Bracket Proposal

I think a fair conclusion to the season would be a 20 team playoff based on overall NBA standings. If you look at the NBA standings right now, there is a clear divide in the Eastern Conference standings. But there are several Western Conference teams close to the top 8 that deserve their fair chance this season. The NBA has already been contemplating seeding based on overall standings (regardless of conference), and since games will be played in one city, I don’t see a problem with that, especially because it can give additional Western Conference teams a fair chance in an expanded playoff bracket. The NHL decided to expand their postseason, and I see the NBA doing the same.

Here’s what the timeline could potentially look like:

  • Early-Mid June: NBA practice facilities reopen
  • Late June: NBA Draft Lottery with 10 teams missing playoffs
  • Friday, July 10: All 20 playoff teams report to Orlando for formal training camp
  • Friday, July 31 – Sunday, August 9: Best of 5 play-in series
  • Monday, August 10 – Sunday, August 23 – Round of 16
  • Monday, August 24 – Sunday, September 6 – Quarterfinals
  • Monday, September 7 – Sunday, September 20 – Semifinals
  • Monday, September 21 – Sunday, October 4 – NBA Finals
  • Thursday, October 8 – 2020 NBA Draft
  • Monday, October 12 – NBA Free Agency Begins
  • Early November – NBA Preseason
  • Early December – 66 Game NBA Season Begins
    • 4 Games vs. Each Division Team (Total of 16)
    • 2 Games vs. Each Other Team (Total of 50)

The NBA is targeting a later start to the 2020-21 season in order to make way for a satisfying ending to the 2019-20 season. The 2020-21 season would look similar to the 2011-12 season after the last NBA lockout.

In the play-in round and the later rounds, all games could be played during prime time, as games would be played every other day and there are enough courts in Orlando for two games at once. In the Round of 16, games could take place both at 7PM and at 9PM, with 4 games across 2 courts each day. They would only need two channels airing games. ABC/ESPN could handle some games, while TNT handles others.

With this format, I think the Bucks and Lakers would still have the best shot at winning it all, but I think the Clippers, Celtics, Nuggets, and Heat among other teams would also have a chance.

That’s all for today, but I’ll be updating again soon with the latest news on the MLB negotiations and updates on the NHL and NBA.

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