NBA playoffs
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If NBA returns in fanless bubble, will there be regular-season games? A play-in tournament?

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Right now, only one thing about a possible NBA return is certain: There will be no NBA games in arenas full of fans anytime soon. Certainly not as part of salvaging this season.

Whether the NBA returns at all remains unclear, with Adam Silver saying data will drive the decision.

If it does return, if the NBA crowns a champion this season, it will be inside a “bubble” — a facility without fans, likely near or attached to a hotel, where extensive testing can screen who gets inside the bubble, keeping human contact down and the coronavirus out. That potential location looking more and more likely is Orlando (over Las Vegas). The advantage of Orlando and the Walt Disney World property is it is all private land, which makes security and keeping people in (or out) of the bubble easier.

If the bubble proves feasible, it leads to the next hard question:

What does the rest of the NBA season even look like?

Here are the three potential paths.

Play all or some of the remaining regular season, followed by a condensed playoffs

This would be the league’s ideal scenario. It would give regional sports networks the chance to make some money back on lost games (even though there would be conflicts because 22 of them have contracts with MLB teams). It would give players and teams to get back into game shape, start to get their teamwork back to midseason form, and improve the level of play in the postseason.

It’s also the most unlikely to happen, for a couple of reasons. The first is the calendar: even with the league willing to go past Labor Day and into September with playoffs and Finals games, start working the calendar backward (including at least 25 days of training camp) and it becomes very difficult to fit in regular season and postseason games.

Second, the larger the NBA makes the bubble, the harder it is to secure and maintain (and there are already challenges with the availability of testing, keeping hotel staff healthy and tested, meals, and more). Bring in those 14 teams not making the postseason and it’s 210 extra players, plus coaches, trainers, equipment managers, video guys, and on down the line. It’s a lot. And for the teams well out of the postseason, what exactly do they gain from this? Not gate receipts. Teams out of the postseason will prioritize health and next season. Would the Golden State Warriors play Stephen Curry in 5-10 games and risk injury when they have no shot at the playoffs?

Have seeds 7-10 have a play-in tournament followed by the playoffs

Adam Silver pitched this idea as part of his planned changes for the 75th NBA season, and fans and media appeared to like it. Teams and players, not so much. There was enough pushback that the idea was scrapped, along with the midseason tournament.

However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Let’s use the West as an example of how this would play out: The 7-seed Mavericks would play the 8-seed Grizzlies in one game, the winner is in; the 9-seed Trail Blazers and 10-seed Pelicans would play one game, loser goes home; then the loser of the 7/8 game would face the winner of the 9/10 game for the final playoff spot.

Here’s the problem: Of the eight teams in the tournament (four from each conference), two go home after just one game, two go home after two games. That’s four teams who brought their teams to Orlando, went through 25-days of training camp, all so they could play a game or two. Games that bring them no gate revenue. Again, this just makes the bubble bigger, and is the payoff worth it?

Call the regular season done and head straight to the playoffs

This is the most likely scenario. Is it fair to the Pelicans/Trail Blazers/Kings that had a chance to catch Memphis and earn a playoff spot if the season hadn’t been suspended? No. But Anthony Slater at The Athletic put it best:

The league can tell teams like the Kings and Pelicans: “Sorry. You might’ve slipped into the eighth spot. But you were very likely going to be eliminated quickly and those two high-dollar home playoff games you would’ve hosted? They’re already gone. There won’t be fans. None of you are near .500. It’s the middle of a pandemic. Now is not the time to worry about legacies of teams without winning records.”

There would need to be some exhibition games between teams before the playoffs started (East vs. West?) just for players to get some teamwork and timing back.

The first couple of rounds of the playoffs would need to be shrunk down to best-of-five series (there has been talk of a best-of-three, but that seems to short and random). The Finals, and likely conference finals, would be best-of-seven affairs, like usual.

Would we see the champion as legitimate? There will be an asterisk next to this season no matter what, but if the Bucks, Lakers, or Clippers go on to win the title, that will feel like an outcome we might have seen had there been no coronavirus. If the Oklahoma City Thunder or Miami Heat won the title, it would raise some eyebrows.

Let’s just hope we get to raise those eyebrows and ask questions because the games are being played.

Watch Jamal Murray hit insane hand-switching layup around LeBron

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Are. You. Kidding. Me.

You are not going to see a better layup these playoffs than this one by Denver’s Jamal Murray, going around LeBron James near the end of the first half of Game 4.

Murray went up thinking dunk, had to change his mind because of LeBron, brought it down, went around him, and spun it in off the glass. Insane. It had some people on Twitter referencing the legendary Michael Jordan hand-switching shot. Not sure I’m willing to compare this Murray shot to a layup that helped launch a dynasty, but it’s close.

Murray had 16 in the first half but the Nuggets trailed at the break 60-55 in a high scoring first half. Anthony Davis had 19 to lead the Lakers.

Former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell “sad, angry, disgusted” with Breonna Taylor decision

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NBA players — like large swaths of the United States — are shaking their heads at the decision not to prosecute the police sho shot Breonna Taylor in her home. That includes LeBron James, who said the walls of Taylor’s neighbors got more justice than she did.

Now former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell has spoken out on the issue.

View this post on Instagram

We’re Sorry Breonna😔🤦🏾‍♂️

A post shared by Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) on

The hate and racism in too many of the responses to that Instagram post highlight the injustice and additional hurdles Black people in America have to clear every day.

Louisville has faced a night of protests and backlash to the decision by the grand jury, which included the two police officers getting shot (they both survived).

 

Report: Bulls paying Billy Donovan $6 million-plus annual salary

New Bulls coach and former Thunder coach Billy Donovan
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf just spent the NBA hiatus – at least if you looked beyond “The Last Dance” itself – getting dragged for not spending enough to give Michael Jordan another year of title contention in Chicago.

Paying to hire Billy Donovan is a way for Reinsdorf and the Bulls to repair their reputations.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’d be surprised if all four years are fully guaranteed. Coaching contracts of this length usually contain a team option or two.

But that’s still a hefty salary. Especially in these times. Especially considering it was believed the Bulls would keep Jim Boylen for financial reasons.

Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering him a new contract. He likely knew he could get more elsewhere.

Credit Chicago for being the team to spend. The Bulls needed a solid coach after Boylen and Fred Hoiberg.

Donovan won’t solve all Chicago’s problems, but he should help on multiple fronts. This upgrade costs nothing but Reinsdorf’s money, which every Chicago fan is perfectly willing to spend.

NBA playoff schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

NBA playoff schedule 2020
AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
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And there were four.

The NBA is down to the conference finals — and the bubble has provided us with upsets galore. There are some unexpected teams in the NBA’s Final Four, but of course LeBron James is still there. The Lakers are the heavy favorites at this point.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except in the East, when ESPN wants a break not to clash with the NFL, and to let the West catch up. The fast pace of games will return with the NBA Finals.
Families for the players, and with the final four now the coaches, are in the bubble.
• The NBA has released an NBA Finals schedule to teams and their target is still a Sept. 30 Game 1. If either conference finals goes seven games that date will need to be pushed back.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114, OT
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101
Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106
Game 4: Heat 112, Celtics 109 (Miami leads series 3-1)
Game 5: Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 6: Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 7: TBD (ESPN)*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103
Game 3: Nuggets 114, Lakers 106 (Lakers lead series 2-1)
Game 4: Sept. 24, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Sept. 26, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 6: Sept. 28, TBD (TNT)*
Game 7: Sept. 30, TBD (TNT)*
*If necessary

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0