Fox Sports New Orleans, like the local broadcasters for many NBA teams, is reshowing some older games from earlier this season. Something has to fill the airtime with the NBA shutdown.
This weekend, New Orleans streamed a live pregame show for its recorded game and brought in David Griffin, the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations (read: the guy with the hammer), to talk about the team.
Of course he was asked about play resuming, and while he didn’t pretend to have any answers (nobody does), he said the league was not talking about canceling the season. (Transcription via Jim Eichenhofer at Pelicans.com.)
“With everything changing so quickly, everything is in a state of flux that I think it would be premature for the NBA to say what it ultimately looks like. I do know unequivocally that the league is very mindful of the idea of getting back to playing. The idea of canceling a season is not all on their minds, and we’re modeling every possible thing we can for how we can deliver a product to the fans. Quite frankly, we’re all going to need a diversion in the future. (But) until we can get to a point where we think we’ve got containment of (the coronavirus), we’re going to continue to stay locked down. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where we can come back sooner rather than later.”
That is the optimistic viewpoint, and primarily what I hear talking to sources around the league — the NBA wants to play games and crown a champion, in whatever form that ultimately takes. There are financial and continuity reasons for this, but nobody wants a 1994 baseball year (although that World Series was lost to a players’ strike). There is a growing pessimism from some in the league, looking at the timelines of a potential coronavirus spread in the U.S., that the league may end up having to cancel. Ultimately, however, nobody knows.
Just don’t underestimate how much the NBA wants to get games played and have a Finals this year.
“A big part of it is the chemistry you see with Lonzo and Zion,” Griffin said. “They have a special connection. I think Nicolo Melli getting more minutes, and him starting to become a key part of the rotation has been essential as well. Those three guys work incredibly well as a unit. The two people who were most damaged by (Williamson’s) absence individually were probably Lonzo – because Zion gives us another player who can create vertical thrust in the offense – and Lonzo can pick defenses apart with his passing…
“Melli, when there is that dive thrust (by Williamson) toward the rim, (Melli) is going to be pulling bigs away from the basket,” Griffin said. “He is absolutely essential when Zion’s on the floor, from a spacing standpoint. When you see the relationship between those three growing, it just exponentially improves our team.”