On Friday, reports surfaced that the NBA may open the season as early as Dec. 22 with a 72 game regular season that ultimately ends before the Tokyo Olympics in July. I was definitely rather pessimistic on such a start, not because of basketball restarting, but rather because the season would be starting while a second wave of coronavirus cases makes its way through the United States and Canada (remember the Toronto Raptors!).
And I’m not alone. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated also wrote that he wasn’t optimistic about a December start. And as you might expect, the coronavirus’ second wave is one of the major reasons why. He also went over some other reasons, including the following:
- Assuming the NBA wants to begin games in home markets anyway, will all teams be allowed to play in their markets? The United States’ coronavirus outbreaks aren’t happening everywhere at once. Right now, they are most rampant in the heartland in states like North Dakota and South Dakota. But the hardest waves could hit the Northeast next. And then the D.C. area after that. Some cities’ governments may just not allow an NBA team to play, even without fans.
- Will players, especially on playoff teams that made deep runs like the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat want to get to playing in just two months? The Players Union has to sign off on any proposal. While the Lakers and Heat certainly need the rest, there are some other teams like the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks that haven’t played since last March. Will players from these teams want to play sooner?
- Can teams successfully do a free agency and draft period in the span of well under a month? We don’t know what the salary cap for next season will be. And once we do, it will be interesting to see how teams react in terms of their offseason priorities. The Draft is on Nov. 18.
- If the season starts again in a bubble, will there be breaks? Players in last summer’s Florida bubble noted that the environment made them feel isolated or lonely. Mental health is just as important as physical health, so this can’t be taken with a grain of salt. If next season starts in a bubble and there is some midseason break, then how much shorter would the regular season be? The 72-game regular season probably doesn’t take that into account, along with quarantine periods.
And there are three more things to consider. They are admittedly political, but this pandemic has forced countries to institute travel bans on each other:
- How will the Toronto Raptors be accommodated? Will Canada allow American teams in and out? While the Trump Administration here in the US has given travel ban exemptions to non-American professional athletes from places like the EU’s Schengen Area, don’t expect full reciprocity from our northern neighbors. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government rejected the Blue Jays’ proposal to play MLB games in their market last summer. While they removed a quarantine requirement for NHL teams last summer, that was because the league held the playoffs in three Canadian hub cities in a bubble-like environment.
- How will the American government response to the coronavirus change if there is a new Presidential Administration? This is a presidential election year and it’s possible that former Vice President Joe Biden will win. If Biden wins, he will implement a national plan to combat coronavirus that is very different from President Trump’s, likely as soon as Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. While a President Biden can’t unilaterally close the NBA or other leagues, he can influence local and state governments to do so which brings about the same result if the second wave of the virus is as bad as many fear. That’s assuming games start in home markets of course.
Finally, here are some questions just for us as Washington Wizards fans:
- Will a December start benefit the Wizards more than other teams?
- Assuming the virus doesn’t get worse over the next few months, could that help them convince Davis Bertans to re-sign?
- Will they be more rested (and have a higher chance of a playoff berth) than other teams when games begin?
Now that we’ve let the news of a possible season start date sink in, do you still feel optimistic about things going on as normal? Or do you feel a bit different? Let us know in the comments below.