Well here we go! With free agency set to start 2 Friday’s from now (11/20/2020) the Draft scheduled for a week from tomorrow and the season starting in just 42 days (training camp starts in exactly 3 weeks!!!) that begs a lot of questions about the impending NBA season which is 42 short, power-packed, action and fun-filled days away!
- How will the schedule look? We’ve heard many theories, tons of theories. This has led to a multitude of theories about those theories and, let me tell you, that’s a few too many theories for this feller. I want to see dates, places, match ups and so on. 72 games is a lot to pack in and, with travel, there will be likely games missed. How will that effect the playoffs? Likely, but again nothing is certain until it’s announced, it will also feature some sort of play-in tournament to decide the final playoff spot or two. Will there be back-to-back-to-backs in some spots? With a lot of the award shows that shut down downtown LA from time to time likely being put on ice how will that effect the road trips? What is the plan for making up missed games? Feels like there won’t be an All Star Game because that’s as much about drawing several thousand people to the host city as much as anything else and you know that ain’t happening next year. Hard to debate the vagaries of the schedule without something to actually debate.
- What are the health concerns for the players? Frankly, there are many. Whether it be from players not competing since March and risking injury ramping up their activity level or the quick turnaround for the teams that went deep into the Bubble Playoffs and even the increased likelihood players will show positive results with the travel that will be a part of next season there are lot more ways injury can effect the team. This is one of many reason why I am in favor of holding onto some, if not all, of our younger (cheaper) talent. While the age difference between young NBA players and old is not vast it is there and younger people recover faster when they get it. This may not matter and it may, depends on what the policy is for positive test cases is. if it’s a hard two weeks after no symptoms every day you show symptoms really matters. Add a day or three and you could see some players miss months recovering from a positive COVID case. The asymptomatic’s are a different thing altogether. Furthermore, if a player has already caught COVID and recovered they are in possession of at least some protective antibodies (some double infections have indeed occurred both abroad and here at home so it does not mean one has achieved something akin to full immunity. you gain resistance). Does that make a player slightly more desirable should one come to know they already had COVID and now have those antibodies? Isn’t that some odd form of injury prevention? As you can see, I have a lot of questions and very few answers in regards to all of this.
- How will the NBA Load Management guidelines change, if at all? The hottest topic in the 2019 portion of last season was Load Management. Kawhi’s load management had garnered the Clippers a decent fine, the topic of what load management was and why team’s are essentially encouraged to fabricate reasons why a player would not be suiting up that evening and so forth. It’ll be interesting to see if the wording of load management is re-worked in advance of the season because it’s almost certainly to be used more in the forthcoming season than ever. LeBron has all but signaled he’ll be “taking it easy” in the early half of the season, but does that mean sitting out or cherry-picking. Will the NBA be apt to fine players for sitting because, if one turns on the TV expecting to see player A and that player is load managing won’t they simply turn the channel and watch something else? With TV ratings and what advertising money teams can squeeze out of that? That should be an interesting thing to see unfold, especially early in the season as guys encounter conditioning issues or short rest from the playoff issues.
- Not gonna lie, I find the idea of opening up the luxury boxes a little odd. I mean…I get it. It could be some source of revenue in a league looking in more nooks and crannies for extra dollars than Donald Trump is looking for missing ballots but it still feels odd. The word is actually elite, it feels like another example of how those with the means can avoid the uncomfortable. Having said that I hope that the NBA and the teams do the right thing and both charge an arm and a leg and providing the most needy of us with an experience they could never replicate: watching an NBA game from some of the priciest seats in the house. I figure it’s all but guaranteed the NBA and NBPA won’t come to blows over this issue, after all it benefits both parties as it would drive the BRI up a bit but it could also be used to do something more.
- The final point is wholly narcissistic: how many of my ‘What will we see from the Bubble aka Permanent Changes” Fiver I did a couple weeks ago will make it into the new forma? Let’s recap!
1-Extra Space along the base and sideline? Don’t see why not, with no fans and likely a scant number of media and photographers in the building it makes sense to keep the aspect of the Bubble that added the most excitement around. Feels like a hard yes.
2-Microphone on the lead official? Again, why not? Makes sense, adds real-time excitement and info over controversial calls and what better way to here that a player has been tossed for the thing we’ve seen replayed 64 times than from the head ref? Feels like a hard yes.
3-Bigger bench area? I sure hope so, this may depend on every arena and how they’re constructed to accommodate sporting events. The older arenas may have fixed seating down to the court area with no ability to disconnect and roll them away for storage but most modern arenas can pull seating out and modulate the space. May come down to cost, might be something that comes and goes based on venue. Feels like a maybe.
4-Virtual fans. Harder to say for similar reasons I hesitate to full out predict the bigger bench area for the players. Each venue will have different ways to run cable, provide feed and they won’t want to obfuscate the luxury boxes, should those be available for fans to observe from. Having said that it won’t surprise me if the virtual fan is, in many ways, here to stay. Since the pandemic is likely to occupy the majority of our 2021 life, and possibly beyond, it means that we may be over another year of not full arenas and there are ways to incorporate the virtual fan app into a televised broadcast to make fans feel more connected. Feels like a soft yes.
5BLM on the court and social messaging-This will be interesting. I can see some teams wholly embracing the BLM messaging and jersey changes. The jersey changes feel like they could be on the outs. Jersey sales will be a large economic factor and unless the NBA wants to make a show of selling the jerseys and raking in profits while the actual BLM organization has to field GoFundMe campaigns and the like to raise money has some pretty terrible optics. However, the recent news of the large number of secret conservative donations sporting franchise owners (including the majority of NBA owners) make means there may be some resistance to that, in general. I’ll say this, the players will probably push for something, feels like the writing on the court may simply be incorporated into the larger NBA message (NBA Cares, their partnership with Kaiser Permanete and the health awareness causes and so on). Maybe it won’t be on the court, maybe it’ll be more subtle (like the advertising patches…waitaminute-
- We interrupt this Five Things to make it a 6 Stuff I Find Interesting because I just had a brain storm while typing. Jersey patches may increase and that should not surprise anyone at all. The NBA has been moving in this direction for awhile, the WNBA is there. Only MLB and the NFL don’t have overt jersey patches besides the Nike swoosh. That will change at some point. The money could be another way to offset the BRI losses of fans in the stands. Ok back to my summation of #5.
5…summated-Point being on the social messaging that the players will not likely want to concede ground won on this topic. It matters to them personally, to the communities they represent and a large swath of the fan base. While it may turn some people off it’s highly likely those are casual fans who are just looking to gripe about something in an illogical manner. The kneeling will stay, BLM will either be on the court or somewhere visible. The jerseys…not so sure about that one. Overall feels like a solid yes.
Anyhow, it’s both exciting and challenging for the NBA to turn this around that quickly. It may mean that, because so much work is being crammed into such a tight window and with players potentially coming up injured early before camp even starts while working out that we see a depressed preseason trade market but a bat guano madness trade deadline trade season. Hard to say. I will add that the short camp and quick turnaround may put the onus on chemistry more than usual. With 10 fewer games it makes winning (and actually playing) the games on the slate more important. Which feeds into the load management point, and so on. One thing is sure, this all starts next week with the NBA Draft so buckle up, Lakerholics, this is sure to be a wild and interesting voyage!