There’s no good way to “pivot” from what’s going on in the world back to sports, and to be honest, it still feels deeply unsettling to write about sports when so much is at stake. However, news continues to trickle out regarding the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season, and it’s still our job to share it with you, especially in the context of what it means for the Toronto Raptors.
Earlier this morning, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the latest proposal to resume the season is coming directly from Adam Silver, following a collaborative approach with players and teams, and includes 22 teams and an eight-game “regular season” before jumping into the playoffs.
Sources: NBA commissioner Adam Silver is planning to propose a 22-team format to resume the 2019-20 season— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 3, 2020
Story on @TheAthleticNBA with full details of the play-in tournament for 8th seed: https://t.co/d7X3X6uCNI
This would of course happen at Walt Disney World in Florida, with the 22 teams staying in hotels and players being unable to leave the resort area for the duration. Charania reports that players would not be able to shower in the arena, and would only be able to bring guests to the “bubble” during the playoff rounds. I’ll assume there are far more stringent safety procedures to be announced as well.
In terms of timing, between an Adrian Wojnarowski report from yesterday and Charania’s this morning, it seems the season would begin July 31, with the NBA Finals ending no later than October 12. Charania also says the combine and draft lottery would happen during the season, in August (no mention of a date for the draft itself has been made).
Regarding the post-season, Charania reports that, should the eighth and ninths seeds in each conference be separated by fewer than four games, there would be a “play-in” between those teams for the final playoff spot.
This play-in would be double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth seed — which, as I understand it, means they’d play each other once, and if #8 wins, #8 gets in; and if #9 wins, they’d play each other again, and if #8 wins, #8 gets in but if #9 wins #9 gets in. (It’s much simpler in practice than it is in writing!)
As for the teams themselves, they’d be the 16 teams currently in playoff positing, and the six teams that are currently within six games of a playoff spot: New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio, Sacramento, Phoenix and Washington. Yep, that’s five in the West and one in the East; however, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of re-seeding and ignoring conferences as part of the proposal.
For the Raptors, with only eight games to play, it seems unlikely they’d move from their #2 spot, unless something disastrous happens. Which means they’d play either the Magic or Nets in Round 1. Neither of these options is as exciting as a Raptors-Grizzlies series, unfortunately! Regardless, the eight games should be a good amount for the Raptors to get back into shape after the long lay-off, and hopefully, enter the postseason at full health — something they’ve rarely been at during the 2019-20 season.
One thing still up for debate, is “home court advantage”; with everyone playing in the same arena, the higher seeds are losing that one edge, and are looking for ways to reclaim it:
With homecourt advantage out the window in an NBA bubble, some contenders are angling for an alternative leg-up, sources tell ESPN. Extra possessions, extra coaches challenges and even first dibs at picking a team hotel on site are being discussed https://t.co/26G5Iwo0rt— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 3, 2020
That all sounds a bit silly to me; the higher seeded teams have the advantage of playing the poorer-performing teams, after all, and the focus of this bubble tournament should remain squarely on safety, rather than petty advantages like better hotels!
The proposal is expected to go to the NBA’s board of governors this week.