OK. Here we are. Again. The dreaded NBA Dog Days where all and every shred of potential information will be over-analyzed, over-debated and over-discussed. I will say these are my happiest dog days in nigh a decade. Since we won it all and such. Before we forget about everything we saw and heard in the Bubble I wanted to revisit a few of the things I really liked about Bubble play.
- The extra space on the base and side lines. I can imagine the owners not liking the idea of moving back the court side ($$$) seats, the camera guys being annoyed at having to get great action shots from an extra 15 feet away and folks up on the stanchion seats not getting to watch the under the basket battles rage. Frankly, it should be worth it. The first thing and best thing I feel about how the play in the Bubble was different was all the extra out of bounds space. It allowed for more athletic drives, more aggressive pass interception attempts and generally added to the excitement. While I don’t expect the space to remain it tops my list of favorite things about the in-game experience.
- Microphone on the lead official. Honestly, why hasn’t this already been done? We already mic up random players from each team, drop a mic into the coaches huddle, interview the coaches from the sideline and we added a pregame interview with X factor players that also was some danged boring TV. But you know what I really appreciated (when they remembered to turn them on) was hearing the rules explained from the official in real time. That was cool and I wish they would do it over the in-arena sound system like in the NFL, as well.
- Bigger bench area. It was cool for the players not playing to add to the fun with cheering, jeering and cavorting when they weren’t on the floor. Lighting the entry tunnels in team colors was really cool, too. While some of these things (especially the added room for the bench players) will likely disappear as the threat of COVID does (should that ever happen…) I sure hope they allow for the excitement the bench players being able to stand and cheer their teammates on introduced during the bubble.
- Virtual fans. You might be asking your self…how? How would this be accomplished in arenas where there are live fans and furthermore…why? I’ll admit that this one is a bit shaky. Assuming that, even in a world and an NBA season that exists within COVID-19 and that the NBA is somehow going to go ahead and bring some fans into arenas somewhere and there will be humans paying to watch other humans play basketball. Watching the World Series makes me think they should have just kept the cardboard cut outs…it’s like you turned on a minor league game that got moved to a too big stadium. If you want to have folks fill out the arena in a socially distant way…indoors…you’re going to have a very small amount of people. So why not have the virtual fans in places where people wouldn’t want, or be able to, be seated? Keep the intensity at a higher level. Keep fans into the game, and besides it’s cool to see who on planet Earth is tuning in.
- Saved the best for last: keep the BLACK LIVES MATTER on the court, every court in every arena. Keep the jersey messaging, keep all of the social justice line items, keep it all. The fans you lose aren’t worth the tears or energy it would take to make them understand why this is important. When they come around, if they come around, we can welcome them back with open arms. But the fact that a multi-billion corporate entity in America is lending it’s voice to a movement for social justice is a big deal. This is not a gimmick, this is a movement and every voice behind it makes it louder. The NBA is an amplifier, it is not the message. Keep the messaging.
Those are the things I would love to see carry over, in some fashion or other. The only one of those I truly expect to make it is the social justice messaging, I think the players will demand it to the degree that they can. The space…probably won’t make the cut, those are high dollar inches and feet. Refs might stay mic’d up, not likely to be like the NFL. Anyhow, here’s hoping that some of the cooler things from the Bubble stick around.