In the playoffs, having a superstar player matters (if they step up), but what truly sets teams apart is their weaknesses — in the playoffs, those are exposed teams hammer them. Put a minus defender out there for extended periods and teams will isolate and attack him. Put a non-shooter out there and teams will help off him and make scoring much more difficult for the better offensive players.
Enter Carmelo Anthony. He averaged 11.8 points per game on 37.5 percent shooting overall and 21.4 percent from three. On defense late in the series, the Jazz went right at him on switches whenever they could (often with Donovan Mitchell attacking off the dribble and blowing right by him), to the point that coach Billy Donovan had to sit him for key stretches the last two games of their eventual first-round loss to the Jazz. The Thunder were -9.7 points per 100 possessions in that series when Anthony was on the court.
This summer Anthony has a $28 million player option, one everyone expects he will pick up (there is not near that kind of money available for him on the open market). He will return to the Thunder.
At his media availability after his exit interview on Saturday, Anthony was asked if he would take a lesser role, maybe coming off the bench (via Royce Young of ESPN).
So… there’s that.
Attitudes can change and shift over the summer. Billy Donovan was hired in part for his ability to relate to players, connect with them, and get them to buy into his plans. Donovan is also a smart coach, he saw what the rest of us saw, he understands what is happening on the court. It’s not some just-discovered secret around the league, mid-season a scout I knew used the term “washed” to describe Anthony. However, it’s not that simple. Anthony is one of the leaders in that locker room, someone highly respected by his peers, and a guy players don’t want to see just bumped to the side. Donovan has a lot of work ahead.
And that’s not even getting into the challenges around Paul George and his free agency. It’s going to be an interesting summer in OKC.
The current NBA season – interrupted by coronavirus – could extend as late as Oct. 12. That means the league must delay next season. How long past the normal mid-October start? December was the popular notion, but that’s still a wide timeframe.
Now, we can pinpoint it.
Marc Stein of The New York Times:
If the N.B.A. can successfully complete the 2019-20 season under this structure, it is expected that the 2020 N.B.A. draft would be moved to October, with free agency to follow shortly thereafter and a tentative plan to establish Dec. 25 as opening day for the 2020-21 season.
Coronavirus can ruin the best-laid plans. Though NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said play would continue around a positive test, it’s unclear whether that would delay this season’s schedule – then the offseason then next season. It’s also unknown how the country will be handling coronavirus in December. The cold weather, pushing people indoors, could increase cases.
But it’s still interesting to know the plan, even if it’s tentative.
People fondly recall the NBA season starting on Christmas in 2011. Many have pointed to Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin’s idea of permanently opening in December to avoid overlap with the NFL, though he suggested mid-December – not Christmas.
That’s quite late.
This year, coronavirus has forced radical changes. A Christmas start might be totally reasonable for the 2020-21 season.
What about beyond?
If the NBA wants to begin each season on Christmas, this is the simplest time to shift. A different start date for future seasons would require altering the calendar to get on track.
There are plenty of issues with opening on Christmas in normal times, though:
- Historically, TV viewership is down during the summer. That might be changing, but people might find other activities while it’s warm rather than attending or watching an indoor NBA game.
- Would people really watch more NBA games just because fewer of them would compete with the highly popular NFL? The NBA regular season might just be too long to capture attention, no matter when it’s held.
- By starting on Christmas, the NBA would reduce two marquee regular-season dates – opening day and Christmas – to one.
- Many regional TV networks that carry NBA games also carry MLB games. Many of those networks already carry NHL games. But with baseball teams playing more games, there would be more conflicts.
- With schools out, the American system is built on summer being more of a vacation time. People within the league – including players, especially those with children – might object to working during that time.
The NBA will recall 22 teams to each play eight games.
How will the schedule work?
The new structure will reportedly be based on teams’ existing schedules, teams playing their next eight originally scheduled games against the continuing 22 teams. Of course, that doesn’t work cleanly. Some teams would reach eight games more quickly than other teams. So, whenever a team arrived at an opponent that already reached eight games, I just continued to that team’s next game.
With that assumption, here are the remaining opponents for each team:
- Boston Celtics: Bucks, Wizards, Raptors, Nets, Wizards, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Heat
- Brooklyn Nets: Clippers, Kings, Wizards, Celtics, Magic, Clippers, Magic, Trail Blazers
- Dallas Mavericks: Suns, Clippers, Kings, Trail Blazers, Suns, Rockets, Jazz, Bucks
- Denver Nuggets: Spurs, Lakers, Clippers, Thunder, Raptors, Heat, Spurs, Thunder
- Houston Rockets: Lakers, Trail Blazers, Kings, Bucks, Mavericks, Pacers, 76ers, Raptors
- Indiana Pacers: 76ers, Heat, Suns, Magic, Rockets, Kings, Clippers, Lakers
- L.A. Clippers: Nets, Pelicans, Mavericks, Nuggets, Suns, Nets, Pacers, Thunder
- Los Angeles Lakers: Rockets, Nuggets, Jazz, Jazz, Raptors, Pacers, Trail Blazers,* Heat or Magic*
- Memphis Grizzlies: Trail Blazers, Jazz, Spurs, Thunder, Bucks, Pelicans, Pelicans, Celtics
- Miami Heat: Bucks, Pacers, Thunder, Nuggets, Suns, Celtics, Raptors, Lakers or Trail Blazers*
- Milwaukee Bucks: Celtics, Heat, Grizzlies, Wizards, Rockets, Wizards, Mavericks, Raptors
- New Orleans Pelicans: Kings, Jazz, Clippers, Spurs, Grizzlies, Kings, Grizzlies, Magic
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Jazz, Wizards, Grizzlies, Nuggets, Heat, Nuggets, Suns, Clippers
- Orlando Magic: Pacers, Kings, Nets, Nets, Pelicans, 76ers, Raptors, Lakers or Trail Blazers*
- Philadelphia 76ers: Pacers, Wizards, Raptors, Trail Blazers, Suns, Rockets, Magic, Spurs
- Phoenix Suns: Mavericks, Pacers, Clippers, Mavericks, 76ers, Wizards, Heat, Thunder
- Portland Trail Blazers: Grizzlies, Rockets, Mavericks, 76ers, Celtics, Nets, Lakers,* Heat or Magic*
- Sacramento Kings: Pelicans, Nets, Mavericks, Rockets, Magic, Pelicans, Pacers, Spurs
- San Antonio Spurs: Nuggets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Jazz, Jazz, Nuggets, Kings, 76ers
- Toronto Raptors: 76ers, Celtics, Nuggets, Lakers, Bucks, Rockets, Heat, Magic
- Utah Jazz: Thunder, Pelicans, Grizzlies, Lakers, Lakers, Spurs, Spurs, Mavericks
- Washington Wizards: Celtics, Thunder, 76ers, Nets, Bucks, Celtics, Suns, Bucks
*To reach eight games for each team, I had to create three games not on the schedule:
- Lakers vs. Trail Blazers
- Lakers vs. Heat or Magic
- Trail Blazers vs. Heat or Magic
Los Angeles would face whichever of Miami and Orlando that Portland doesn’t face (and vice versa).
The Lakers could also play the Trail Blazers twice, and the Heat could just play the Magic. But that’d mean five Lakers-Trail Blazers games and five Heat-Magic games this season. Generally, teams play each other four or fewer times.
I wouldn’t get too caught up in the order of the games. That almost certainly must be adjusted. Otherwise, teams would finish at significantly different times. For example, the Bucks’ eighth game in this format is against the Raptors. But that’s just Toronto’s fifth game.
The NBA might also use a different method altogether. Again, the reported plan can’t work exactly as reported.
But want the best guess at each team’s remaining games? This is it.
*Thanks to Kevin Pelton of ESPN for providing a handy spreadsheet of originally scheduled games.
Colin Kaepernick’s protest worked.
Just by kneeling during the national anthem, Kaepernick shined a light on racism – specifically through police brutality – plaguing the United States. Whether or not you agreed with his methods, Kaepernick made it difficult to avoid discussion of the very important issue. Kaepernick’s simple demonstration made society far more sensitive to police misconduct, particularly toward black people. That set the stage for these incredible nationwide protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
Of course, work remains. Kaepernick suffered far too great of personal cost to deliver his message. Racism and police brutality continue.
So, expect some people – including NFL players – to keep kneeling during the national anthem.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees explained why he objected to that. Lakers star LeBron James then objected to Brees’ explanation.
I do think not standing for the Star Spangled Banner disrespects the United States. The societal norms are clear: Standing is the way to show respect during the national anthem.
But know what else disrespects the United States? Police brutality, which disproportionately harms black people.
At some point, you have to decide which disrespect bothers you more – racism that damages and ends lives or symbolic protest of a song and piece of cloth.
Brees also brought up the military, on which I share LeBron’s disagreement. The Star Spangled Banner represents our entire country, not just our military. It’s weak to use the military as a shield while criticizing Kaepernick. In fact, Kaepernick specifically altered his protest – from sitting to kneeling – to honor the military.
Brees can ignore Kaepernick’s message on that.
But Kaepernick’s larger message rings loudly.
It’s been one of the big questions for the NBA’s 22-team restart at the Walt Disney World complex in Orlando:
How would the schedule be put together for those eight regular-season games?
It turns out, the answer is modifying the old schedule, reports Vincent Goodwill at Yahoo Sports. The idea is just to use the old schedule, taking out the teams not in Orlando.
This provides a starting point for the league’s schedulers. For example, the Pelicans schedule would be: Kings, Jazz, Clippers, Spurs, Grizzlies, Kings, Grizzlies, Magic. The Pelicans would play the Grizzlies twice in this format, giving them a real chance to make up ground toward the eighth seed. Portland also is well positioned to make a playoff push.
The challenge with following the old schedule becomes this: the Thunder’s eighth game in this scenario is the Clippers, except L.A. already played eight. Next for the Thunder then is the Lakers, except they will have played eight. Then the Nets, but again they have played eight. Multiple teams face this scenario, so the league will need to schedule some “made up” games just to balance things out.
While there would be tweaks to be made, using the existing schedule as a base makes sense.
The teams most interested will be the teams battling for the nine seed, particularly in the West. New Orleans had a particularly soft remaining schedule and the Grizzlies had the hardest one in the league, which is why fivethirtyeight.com gave the Pelicans a 60% chance of making the playoffs. With the eight worst teams in the league out of the picture, how does that change and how much do the schedules flatten out?
Considering everything that has gone on with the league this year and the great lengths needed to start up games again, don’t expect teams to complain about the schedule. They’re just happy to be playing.