What’s Happening in the NBA Season?
The 2020/2021 NBA season is slated to kick off later this month, just 71 days after last season ended. Not only is this the shortest offseason in NBA history, it’s also the shortest offseason in most professional sports, including the NFL, NHL and MLB, as reported by ESPN in November . The 2019/2020 NBA season was an anomaly, culminating in a playoff tournament held in Orlando from within a safe bubble to prevent the spread of infection between players and staff. The upcoming campaign is sure to be marked by the same degree of weirdness that has emerged from the still raging pandemic.
The NBA will be defining new territories when the season kicks off on December 22nd. This is how the league addresses all of the uncertainties surrounding the basketball game during the virus outbreak.
This is a shorter season
On November 9, the NBA and the National Basketball Association (the union representing NBA players) entered into an agreement governing the rules for the new season. One of those rules was to reduce the number of games per season from the usual 82 to 72.
The league plans to release the season schedule in two phases. The first half of the schedule was published at the start of the teams’ training camps earlier this month, and the second half is due to be released during the first half of the games. Accordingly, the league calls the two parts of the games “First half” and “Second half”.
As part of games, teams will often play against rivals at their conferences, but at the same time reduce the time for holding intra-conference games.
As the NBA officially states :
For now, the plan is for each team to play three games against each opponent within the conference (42 in total) and two against each opponent via interconference (30 games).
Unlike the new 2020 season, there will be no bubble. Teams will travel the country as usual, although they will play in empty or sparsely populated arenas upon arrival.
Unconventional approaches abound
The NBA is drawing on the wisdom of Major League Baseball to reduce travel. This would entail mobile teams staying in opposing teams’ cities a little longer to play two games instead of one.
In an effort to reduce travel, teams will play so-called “baseball” streaks against opponents, playing two games in a row in the same city against the same team. Fans will feel this during the preseason, when there will be several re-matches between the teams.
COVID Security Protocols
The main problem of shortening the season is ensuring the safety of the players, the coaching staff and everyone else who is involved in the production of professional basketball. Daily testing of players and staff in front of the entire team and individual training has already begun on December 1, but the scope of this program extends much further than in practice. Perhaps the biggest and most important question is what threshold will need to be crossed in order to suspend travel and activities. As the league notes, a “small or expected” number of isolated COVID cases will not stop the team, but the outbreak among players or staff will.
The NBA goes on to state its rules:
Anyone who tests positive will have two ways to get back to work: walk 10 days or more after the first positive test or the onset of symptoms, or test negative twice at least 24 hours apart using PCR.
Any player who tests positive, even if asymptomatic, should wait 10 days and then observe individual training for an additional two days.
Team away parties will be limited to 45 people, including 17 players, as they travel the country to play in the NBA arenas at home and on the road.
An anonymous line will be available for reporting possible security protocol violations.
Their playoffs will be different too
8th place mediocrity won’t automatically open the door to the playoffs this season. Instead of the traditional format, a draw will take place to find out who will make the coveted final postseason slot. The playoffs will inevitably have a chance as teams finishing 7th to 10th in their conferences switch between themselves for a playoff chance where they will likely lose to a stronger team.
The league explains the updated format:
At the end of the regular season, but prior to the first round of the playoffs, the team with the seventh highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the eighth highest winning percentage in a Play-In game (“Seven-Eight”). The winner of the seven-eight game in each conference will receive seventh place.
The team with the 9th highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 10th highest winning percentage in Game Nine-Ten. The loser of the game of seven-eight will host the winner of the game of nine-ten in the preview game, and the winner of that game in each conference will receive seed # 8.
How will the changes affect the All-Star weekend?
Can we still enjoy all the sick dunks and robots we love so much? This year’s All-Star Weekend was originally slated to take place in Indianapolis in February, although the event has since been pushed back to 2024. So far, the league has said it will announce a revised plan for this year’s All-Star Celebration, but nothing for sure.
If you remain persistent in your interest in all the things related to the basketball pandemic, keep your eyes on the NBA announcements , which are likely to sound fast and fast as hiccups will inevitably occur.