The NBA is hard at work trying to conjure up a solution to enable the league to finish out the 2019-20 season. But they are thinking WAY too hard. The regular season is over. Finito. Kaput. Sayonara.
If and when the league resumes, which seems inevitable at this point, it should lead right into the playoffs. No more regular season games. Just 16 teams vying to be crowned champion.
It sort of pains me to say it as a Pistons fan. First and foremost, I miss basketball, and I miss rooting for my favorite team. It’d be a chance to see Blake Griffin back on the court and Christian Wood continue to grow. And, if we’re being honest, the Pistons were careening their way toward the bottom of the standings and toward an even better lottery pick in a draft. A draft with only a couple blue chip prospects, and even then you have to squint to have such a rosy outlook on their potential.
What’s not to love?
I have a better question — what’s left to play for? The answer is, of course, nothing. Nothing but losses. And while the Pistons are fully capable of losing all their remaining games (with a five- and seven-game schedule to finish the season currently being floated), I still don’t think games should move forward.
Adding more teams invites more risk. And truthfully, there are plenty of teams left with nothing to play for. If I were in charge of the Pistons, I wouldn’t see any point in risking injury to any player with anything like a future on the team, and I’d feel bad putting pending free agents at risk of injury.
Even if they push the start of the next regular season from October to December, you’re still talking about an uncertain rehab in an uncertain world that might or might not be radically altered by another coronavirus outbreak.
I wouldn’t be shocked if the Pistons brass had the exact same assessment, and that means that there are likely 15 other franchises that feel the same way as well. Teams outside of the playoffs would be deploying a form of tanking unlike anything the league has ever seen. Few if any stars not looking for a post-season tune-up would suit up. They wouldn’t risk the health of stars, of young rookies who have rigorous offseason development plans or pending free agents. It’d be inviting a bunch of teams to rely on two-way and 10-day contract players duking it out with the only upside available another tick in the loss column and a bit better lottery odds.
That isn’t what the league wants. It’s certainly not what I want as a basketball fan. Acknowledging this reality, the league has also toyed with the idea of not inviting more than the current 16 playoff teams but less than the full 30 teams to their exclusive Orlando quarantine bubble to finish out the regular season.
That seems plausible in theory, but how, exactly, do you determine who doesn’t get invited? Are you simply expecting teams to volunteer to opt out? That is some insanely poor optics and I’m sure teams wouldn’t take that if it was even being offered.
The league standings indicate pretty clearly there are 16 teams “worthy” of being in the playoffs (the East, as usual, needs to be graded on a curve) and 14 teams that don’t. The Wizards are 24-40 and 5.5 games behind the Magic for the last playoff spot in the East. The Blazers, Pelicans and Kings are all 3.5 games behind the 32-33 Grizzles for the final spot in the West.
Sure, you can feel a bit sorry for them but it’s not like it’s a half-game deficit.
I can understand the league being worried about teams not being in fighting form right out of the gate, but that would be true of every franchise. Everyone would be facing the same deficit.
There are no perfect solutions to this crazy season, especially with more important things going on in the world. Just take the 16 teams into a best-of-five format for the first round and let the chips fall where they may.
What’s the worst that can happen, an upset that would ignite interest in the league?
I’d take that over inviting an extra 800-plus people involved with 14 franchises that have nothing but an incentive to lose as many games as possible using as few recognizable faces as possible just to get the season over with.
That doesn’t sound like fun. Hell, it barely sounds like basketball.
I’m excited to have basketball in my life, even if it means it doesn’t involve the Pistons in any way shape or form. Let’s get the playoffs started.