Once it does return, things are going to look a lot different. Games will be played at a neutral site, likely at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Fans will not be in attendance. As of right now, it does look like at least some regular-season games will be played before the playoffs start.
With all of that as the backdrop, here’s a look at the top storylines around the Association for when the 2019-20 season resumes.
Kyrie Irving and the Nets
This NBA champion was in the midst of an injury-plagued and drama-filled first season in Brooklyn prior to the campaign being suspended. Irving had played in a grand total of 20 games before suffering a serious shoulder injury that led to surgery. It was expected to keep him sidelined for the remainder of the season.
Now, with the season having been suspended for over two months, Irving was back on the court earlier in the week. There’s a darn good chance he will be available when the season resumes. Brooklyn currently sits at 30-34 on the campaign and as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Could Irving’s return propel this team to a surprise playoff run?
Pelicans looking to make a run at the playoffs
We have no idea how playoff seeding is going to work once the regular season comes to a conclusion. There’s been some talk about multiple play-in series to decide the final two seeds in each conference. If that is indeed the case, stud rookie Zion Williamson and his Pelicans would have a shot.
New Orleans hit the suspended portion of the schedule four games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. It posted a 10-9 record in the 19 games Williamson suited up in after he returned from injury. The youngster was making history before the stoppage in play, averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Even at a neutral site, it would be awesome to see Zion and Co. go up against someone like LeBron James. Can the Pelicans make it happen?
COVID-19 and the NBA
Playing in a bubble city like Orlando will help prevent the spread of the virus among players and other personnel on hand. That’s fine. But as some players have noted, this does not mean the NBA will hold them hostage at the resort. Some players will venture out to the local community.
What if a star player tests positive for the virus? NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has noted games will continue with said player in isolation off the court. This adds another layer to everything. Let’s say LeBron James or the Greek Freak test positive during the playoffs? Wouldn’t that lead to even more of an asterisk being placed on the season? It’s just some food for thought.
Can the Heat regain their momentum?
Head coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat were one of the biggest stories around the NBA when play was halted. Without any real star power outside of Jimmy Butler, Miami found a way to put up a 41-24 record through 65 games. Rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro were far outpacing expectations. Big man Bam Adebayo earned his first ever All-Star appearance.
With that said, momentum is no longer the name of the game for any team. Once the season does return, it will be a good four months since anyone has played a game. Can Miami keep it going after being in suspended animation for more than a third of a calendar year? It’s a big question.
LeBron and Kawhi’s rest
It’s already known that reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard was not playing both ends of back-to-back games in his first season with the Clippers leading up to March 11. It was a way for Los Angeles to keep Leonard rested and 100% healthy for the playoffs. Now that the NBA is in a time crunch, don’t expect much rest in between games. What happens if some playoffs series include back-to-back games? Would Leonard play both ends?
Remaining in Los Angeles, LeBron James will have had at least four months off from live-game action once the season resumes. Given how well the MVP candidate was playing prior to the season being suspended, this is not great news for opposing Western Conference contenders. It could very well give James and his Lakers a major upper-hand.
How will bottom-feeding teams treat it?
Common logic seems to suggest that the NBA won’t simply resume the season with the playoffs. Players must get some action in before more meaningful games begin. If so, it stands to reason that about a dozen games will be needed for each team before the postseason.
That’s not necessarily great news for squads already out of playoff contention. How will the 15-50 Golden State Warriors treat it? Head coach Steve Kerr has already said the season is over for his team. The same goes for the likes of the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves. This could lead to even more of an on-court advantage for contending teams.