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Suspension Journal: The NBA looks ahead to the day after tomorrow

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Tomorrow marks the end of the NBA’s original 30-day suspension of the league. After weeks of quarantine, are we any closer to getting basketball back?

General View Of Scotiabank Arena During Toronto Raptors Vs Los Angeles Clippers NBA Game Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The waiting is the hardest part. At first, it was a couple of weeks. That was the timeframe people needed to self-isolate in order to ensure they weren’t infected with COVID-19 — even if they appeared asymptomatic. It became best and safest to avoid public gatherings so as to limit the spread of this contagious virus, and to, ideally, flatten the curve of its exponential growth. On the night of March 11th, the NBA made the call to suspend the season for “at least 30 days”, roughly doubling that two week period, and implying a possible deadline for when everything would return to normal. NBA fans, like everyone else, continued to wait.

It’s easy to see how commissioner Adam Silver arrived at such a timeframe, and easier still to understand why the league as a whole wanted to offer hope of a quick return. As the coronavirus situation has worsened — as we knew it would — however, it’s become more and more difficult to see how or when this suspension would end. It will end, I think we can be confident in that conclusion, but as we pass the 30-day benchmark, it’s easy to see how that timeframe could start to exponentially grow too.

In Toronto, we’re starting to get a sense of just how long this quarantine could go on. With the recent cancellation of the Pride Parade and Caribana, two of the city’s major global events, we’ve suddenly cleared June and July, and are peering at the horror of an entirely lost summer. Now, these cancellations don’t necessarily mean we’ll still be trapped in our homes come August — it’s risky to spend months planning an event if there’s huge uncertainty as to if it can actually happen, after all — but it certainly doesn’t bode well for a free and easy month.

Sadly, the same goes for the NBA season. With 18 games to go for the Raptors, we’re still no closer to knowing when and how the 2019-20 year will wrap up — or even if it can wrap up in any sort of satisfactory fashion. This is depressing for Raptors fans, of course, but that feeling extends across every fandom for every professional league. The early optimism of games played in the absence of crowds, or an eventual tip-off in June, has given way to more open-ended questions, some reading as almost Zen-like koans — does an NBA game count if no one is allowed to see it happen live?

Setting aside the questions of the presumptive upcoming draft, free agency period, and Summer League (an event that will almost surely be cancelled, if only because there may not be a summer during which to host it), what my mind keeps turning to is next season, the 2020-21 edition. If, say, this year is salvaged, and we get NBA basketball in August, with playoffs running into September, how can the following season begin at its normal time? Does the start time shift? Does the NBA compress the schedule somehow? Do we just agree to alter it in some other way, reducing the number of games to allow the calendar to normalize and relaxing the league back into its usual state? How do we even determine what “normal” and “usual” are now? I’m getting too far ahead of things, I realize, but also: what else can be done?

So we carry on with what we’re doing right now. We continue trying to make our lives work as best they can. We try to stay connected to each other by whatever means are possible. We scan the news, hopeful for a drop in new cases of Coronavirus — and the number of deaths. It’s a macabre and grim business, living under quarantine during a global pandemic. We can have fun here, writing about all kinds of various Raptors-related things, but we have to acknowledge that other side as well.

And of course we wait too. It’s hard, yet for many of us it may be our only part to play, something that will just have to be done to see us all through to the happy end we want.