And why we hate the hiatus
In any normal year, the NBA, NHL and MLB would be active right now. Normal is now far away in the rearview mirror, and the roadmap is nowhere to be found. Where do these leagues go from here? The playoffs would typically be kicking off in the coming weeks in the NBA and NHL. It seems like the NBA is under the biggest spotlight. In no other sport does the media talk so much about legacy. In no other sport does the media compare players and franchises so often. Partially because of that and because of revenue, the NBA is under a lot of pressure to find a way to finish this season in some fashion. With the season in hiatus, there are several postseason or season-ending scenarios that could happen.
A recent report from CNBC reviewed a possible playoff in Las Vegas. The first round would be a best-of-five series, followed by sudden death games in the next two rounds and a best-of-five Finals. In order to have this tournament, the players would first be quarantined under one roof in Las Vegas for an extended period of time. The tournament would, of course, be held without fans. While that idea is interesting, it doesn’t seem all that fair. Who gets to make the playoffs? Is it based on the current record? There were weeks left of the regular season, and only four teams had clinched playoff berths. No playoff format is going to be without controversy, especially since the NBA has already expressed doubts that the season could just pick up where it left off.
The worst of the worst-case scenarios is that the season is scrapped completely. This is one of the more likely outcomes of COVID-19, unfortunately. Adam Silver wants the season to continue like everybody else, but he’s a sensible man. He will not put player health below revenue. If the virus doesn’t let up, the season will not continue. We will be left with wonder and probably a 30-for-30 documentary in a few years. Experts can speculate all they want, but nobody knows what’s going to happen in the playoffs. Everybody would have pegged the Warriors as champions a year ago. The league could still give out awards like MVP and ROY, but the season as a whole would go down in history as a big what-if.
This possibility seems the most interesting to me. The NBA season could be halted, and run straight into next season. Every team would keep their current record and the next season would stack on top of that. It wouldn’t count as two championships, per se, but it wouldn’t completely nullify the 2019-2020 season either. I think it would make next year’s Finals seem twice as important and twice as hyped. Would the Warriors be able to make the playoffs? Would Kevin Durant win the title with Brooklyn? The possibilities are endless. The 2019-2021 season could be legendary.
Delayed 2021 Season
Another possibility is that the league picks up once the virus wears down and continues as normal. They might cut a few games or alter the playoffs, but the season would continue. As a result, they would have to delay or shorten the 2020-2021 season. The players would be angry if their offseason was cut in half. The 82-game season is long and tiresome for even healthy players, so they need their full offseason to recover physically. With that in mind, the season might not even start until Christmas, if not later. We could be in line for two abridged seasons in a row. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen. At least we have the 2k tournament, right?