The COVID 19, pandemic has changed the world in more ways than one. People have been cooped up in their homes like hens in fear of getting contracted with the disease leading to physical, economic and psychological problems. However, in spite of disasters, mankind has always survived and has come out stronger facing the challenges imposed on it. The sports arena has probably taken the hardest hit. Sports mean the excitement of the game, the gathering of fans – all of which has been missing.
The pandemic has been the cause for uncertainty in the NBA season from the start. The current season has just finished about a month ago, but as the time has been cut short due to government restrictions, the decision to start the 2020-21 season had been under a cloud. However, on November 5 the representatives of National Basketball Player’s Association had sat down to decide on a start date through voting. As an outcome of this exercise, December 22 has been approved as the start date for a 72-game regular season.
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The NBA has lifted the trade moratorium on the players and the 2020 NBA draft has been held on Nov. 18. The experts have their own opinion on the gainers and losers of the decision for a pre-Christmas start, as mentioned in the following paragraphs.
Teams with Continuity likely to do better
As per some of the experts continuity is a key factor. Generally, it has been found that continuity did not mean that the teams perform better at the start. However, after the 2011 lockout, it was observed that teams with continuity performed much better at the start than during the rest of the season. The Corona virus pandemic has created so much uncertainty that it will be difficult for teams to cope with the challenge imposed due to expedited training camps and free agents. Hence, groups that have maintained the strategy of minimal changes will likely be the gainers. The experts cited examples such as, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat.
Teams that were not invited to the Orlando Bubble:
The Orlando bubble was an isolated playing zone at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida. This was created to protect the players from Corona virus and at the same time they could play the game. Out of thirty NBA teams twenty-two were invited to the bubble. The games were played behind closed doors at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Playing in the bubble was a tiresome affair for most of the teams. Teams like Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets struggled to compete and reached the NBA finals in late September, and L.A. Coopers joined the fray by firing its coach in early October. The Golden State Warriors sat quietly through all these buzz of activities since the middle of March. The experts feel that the playoff in the bubble will wear out the Western Conference teams and it will be difficult to perform effectively at the start of the season in December. This will benefit the teams that have stayed out of the bubble in a great way.
Since NBA is not just playing for fun but a business activity, players and teams will gain by playing the games as soon as possible. This would mean that the teams that have played the league would be at an advantage.
What would be a game without its spectators? People who love to watch the game of basketball are itching to be at the stands or besides their TVs to indulge in the fun and excitement of the game. Besides the teams and the players, the fans would be the most benefitted for a pre-Christmas start as this would mean watching the normal playing season during the winter and playoffs during the summer.
Experts are of the opinion that a pre-Christmas start will not be a benefit for many. The front office is usually loaded beyond its capacity during the interim period between the playoffs and the summer league. Those who have managed the front office feel that this year the situation would be beyond the wildest imagination. The reason is quite clear, as within the short time available until Christmas, one has to manage a draft, a free agency period and training camp. So, for the front office the situation is not very rosy after all.
There are teams that may be thinking of restructuring their talent content through trading so that they can be competitive. However, the early start will definitely be deterrent as the time is too short for the new entrants to fit in with the rest of the players. The contracted training camp will also create difficulties for players who have been injured during the earlier season.
The Orlando bubble saw twenty-two teams through grueling games of basketball playing. It is true that the decision for a pre-Christmas start is definitely financially beneficial for the players. However, considering the physical and mental stress that each and every game of such high standards put on the players, it will be hard for those who have just finished the play offs to go through training camps which are about to take place within a few weeks from now.
The teams that have reached the final during the Orlando bubble, such as, the Lakers and the Heat, have endured keen competition at an extremely high level. In order to once again get into the fight for another title immediately after the playoff run would not be very easy for them.
Some of the players and the free agents will also face difficulty due to the decision of a pre-Christmas start. These players already have some ongoing contracts and have to fulfill the obligations before they sign in. Therefore, the free agents will face a slow start for the 2020-21 season.
Experts and players have made many suggestions to tweak the NBA schedule so that the game could be played without hindering the finances of the players and teams or put excessive stress on the players as well as continue to provide a source of entertainment for those who love to watch the game.