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Saturday, June 13, 2020

Initial Thoughts About the NBA 2020 Season Restart

The most important thing about the NBA 2020 season restart--other than the health and safety of all of the participants--is that this will enable the league to crown a champion by using the traditional playoff format. There has never been an NBA season that ended without crowning a champion, and hopefully 2020 will not be the first.

It is unfortunate, if perhaps unavoidable, that no team will play all 82 regular season games, and that eight teams will not play any more games until the 2020-21 season starts. The Milwaukee Bucks were on pace to win more than 70 games before having a three game losing streak prior to the league shutting down, and the 53-12 Bucks could have still finished with exactly 70 wins if they had won their final 17 contests--not likely, but not impossible for a team that had an 18 game winning streak earlier in the season.

The L.A. Lakers have the second best record in the league, and they went 8-2 in their last 10 games prior to the shutdown. If Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo does not claim his second straight regular season MVP then the Lakers' LeBron James could very well win his fifth MVP, tying him with Bill Russell and Michael Jordan behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) on the all-time list.

Finishing the regular season in some fashion, honoring an MVP--along with other award winners such as selecting the All-NBA Teams, and the Rookie of the Year--and crowning a champion are important links in the league's historical chain.

Of course, the primary motivating factor for restarting/finishing the season is financial: the league's owners, players, media partners, and other associated businesses face billions of dollars of combined losses if no more games are played until next season starts.

No fans will be present at these games, but having eight regular season games plus a full playoff slate will enable the NBA to fulfill at least some of its contractual obligations to its TV partners and to its various corporate sponsors.

The format agreed upon by a 29-1 vote of the NBA's Board of Governors on June 4--and subsequently ratified by the NBA Players Association, though there have been recent rumblings of dissatisfaction among at least some players--stipulates that each of the 22 participating teams will play eight "seeding games" to conclude the 2019-20 regular season. All games will be played at the Walt Disney Resort near Orlando, Florida, where all participants will essentially be sequestered until the teams that they are associated with are eliminated from contention. There will be frequent COVID-19 testing, and there will be rules in place regarding the protocols if a player tests positive. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has stated that a positive test will not result in the quarantine of an entire team, or the shutdown of the season.

The top seven teams in each conference will qualify for the playoffs, with the traditional tiebreakers in place if necessary. If the team with the eighth best record in a conference is more than four games ahead of that conference's ninth place team after the "seeding games" have been played then the eighth place team will be that conference's eighth seed; however, if the eighth place team is not more than four games ahead of the ninth place team then the ninth place team can qualify for the playoffs by winning two head to head games versus the eighth place team.

Essentially, this means that Brooklyn, Orlando, and Washington are battling for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, while Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, and Phoenix are fighting for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

The season is scheduled to restart on July 31, and the NBA Finals are scheduled to end no later than October 12. The NBA Draft Lottery is set for August 25, the NBA Draft will be held on October 15, and the 2020-21 season will likely begin on December 1. Of course, there are a variety of factors/contingencies that could change these plans. 

Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Golden State, Minnesota, and New York are the eight teams not participating in the restart. This means, among other things, that Atlanta's Vince Carter--whose 22 season career is the longest in NBA history--has most likely played in his last NBA game.

After Utah's Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player who tested positive for COVID-19, extensive testing was done of people who had been in close contact with him; among Utah's traveling party of dozens of people, only Gobert's teammate Donovan Mitchell tested positive (which suggests that perhaps COVID-19 is not as contagious as it has been reported to be). Both Gobert and Mitchell fully recovered without experiencing serious symptoms. What I wrote in the immediate aftermath of Gobert testing positive is worth repeating now:
If COVID-19 is as contagious as it is depicted to be, and if Rudy Gobert had the kind of sustained, direct contact with so many people that one can reasonably assume that he had after he became contagious but before he was isolated, then why is there only one infection directly connected to him? Whole countries are being shut down, and millions of lives are being disrupted on the premise that this disease is highly contagious. More than one media outlet has reported that one person in New York singlehandedly infected over 100 people.

Shouldn't somebody with medical expertise be looking into why Gobert is not very contagious, and why this other person supposedly is so contagious? Do we not have all the facts? Did Gobert somehow infect more people than we know? That seems doubtful based on how many people connected to him have already been tested. Is the one person in New York possibly not responsible for infecting over 100 people? If Gobert only infected one person, but this other individual infected over 100 people, then what actionable knowledge can we gain from those two situations to limit the spread of this disease? Alternatively, if this other individual only infected one or two people, then other method(s) of disease transmission involving the rest of the folks incorrectly linked to that individual presumably would have implications for the effort to slow the spread of the disease.

Gobert felt well enough to play NBA basketball on the night that he tested positive. By all accounts, Donovan Mitchell is doing fine, too.

Are people who are younger than a certain age and reasonably healthy seriously at risk?

I understand the concepts of "flattening the curve," and the importance of minimizing how many people get sick so that the healthcare system is not overwhelmed--but shutting down the entire country will also have a serious impact on the economy, on mental health, and ultimately on physical health. An autopsy can prove if someone who died had COVID-19. An autopsy cannot prove that someone who died would have lived if not for the transformative disruptions of society that are increasing on a daily basis to mitigate the spread of a disease that we do not understand very well.

Is it possible that protectively isolating the elderly and the most vulnerable without shutting down the whole economy would lead to a better outcome, both in terms of disease mitigation, and the mitigation of other negative outcomes?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions--but I know that these are very important questions, and that they need to be answered intelligently not only to deal with this crisis, but to deal with whatever the next crisis will be.
When the NBA shut down in March, the league based this decision relied on various speculative models. With the information available at that time, shutting down may have been the only option. It is not clear when it will be feasible to have mass gatherings of thousands of people, and the NBA had to figure out how to safely hold games without having fans on site.

Now, we have evidence demonstrating that COVID-19 poses a much more significant threat to the elderly and/or immuno-compromised than to any other population segments; this means that, with proper care, our society does not have to be on indefinite and draconian lockdown status.

I strongly believe that our society should return to as close to normal as quickly as possible. I support the NBA's overall plan to resume the season, whether or not I agree with every single proposed detail. I hope and expect that the restart will go well, that few of the people involved in the restart will test positive for COVID-19, and that anyone who tests positive will recover quickly.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:07 PM



At Saturday, June 27, 2020 3:45:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


David this about money and nba been losing money for a min with this pandemic.

So finish reg season and get next year money is nunber 1 goal

I think format good based on circumstances

No fans

Social distancing


I think the lakers and clippers are fav.

But with no homecourt and other things i think teams with best talent will prevail and that lakers and clippers.

Far as covid im in the middle its not the flu no but its not as potent as the experts say.

It mostly kills people who old or got compromised immune system and it doesnt have a 5 percent kill rate. More than the 2.5 million number they give have had covid its probably been 10 or 20 million people who had it.

The flu kills 60,000 people a year covid killed 125,000 in 3 months so that inaccurate from trump supporters.

Sports players most are in good shape and 20's and 30's that why u seen none be hospitalized.

But good to have sports back next month


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