The NBA returns but concerns abound

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All Pro Reels | Flickr

Kyle McKee

The NBA Board of Governors voted earlier this month to approve a 22-team format to restart the 2019-2020 season, beginning on July 30. All games, practices and housing for the teams will be held at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida.

The 22 returning teams include the 16 teams that currently hold playoff positions, with eight in each conference, as well as six teams that are behind the eighth seed in their respective conference by six games or fewer. Each returning team will have eight regular season games, otherwise known as “seeding games.” At the conclusion of the eight seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the best combined records across the regular season and seeding games will qualify directly for the playoffs.

The path to the playoffs for the eighth seed in each conference, the last and final playoff spot, will be more complicated. If the team that holds the eighth position at the end of the eight seeding games is more than four games ahead of the team directly behind them in the standings, then the team that holds the eighth seed will earn that final playoff spot. However, if the team that holds the eighth position at the end of the eight seeding games is ahead of the ninth-placed team by four games or fewer, then those two teams would compete in a play-in tournament to make the playoffs.

To earn the eighth and final spot, the eighth seed at the end of the regular season and the seeding games would have to defeat the other team once. Whereas, the team that was the ninth seed at the end of the regular season and the seeding games would have to defeat the other team two games in a row. Once the playoff bracket is set, the 2019-2020 season will conclude with a traditional playoff format with best-of-seven series in every round. The playoffs will include the first round, conference semifinals, conference finals and the NBA Finals.

Fans and sports media personalities are ecstatic for the restart of the NBA season in the summer, however, several questions remain unanswered. For instance, the guidelines do not indicate what would happen if multiple players or the coach on a team test positive for COVID-19.

Adding to the uncertainty that is COVID-19, some NBA players do not feel comfortable returning because of the unprecedented attention placed on racial equality felt around the world. Kyrie Irving is the most high-profile star who feels that the NBA returning would only serve as a distraction from the Black Lives Matter movement that has garnered the attention of the United States in the wake of George Floyd’s death last month. Dwight Howard and Lou Williams are a few other players who have expressed concern about how returning to play will affect the stride towards racial equality. Well-respected retired players, such as Stephen Jackson and Tracy McGrady, have come out publicly and said they would not want to play because it would be a hindrance to the bigger issues at hand.

Having said that, other players, such as LeBron James, Austin Rivers and Ed Davis, are countering Kyrie’s points by stating that the NBA returning would not be a distraction to the Black Lives Matter movement, in fact, it would help the movement.

Austin Rivers wrote in an Instagram post, “With this money you could help out even more people and continue to give more importantly your time and energy towards the BLM movement. Which I’m 100% on board with. Because change needs to happen and injustice has been going on too long. Us providing entertainment and hope for kids is important.”

Even though it looks like the NBA will be coming back, there is significant uncertainty on how everything will run its course. Only time will tell.