2020 NBA offseasons could be shortest – and among longest – ever

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Kevin Durant went to the arena for one of the biggest games of his life on June 12, 2017. His Warriors up 3-1 on the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, Durant was on the verge of his first championship. He capped his great series with a Game 5 victory and title. As he left the arena afterward, Durant exited a car, got mobbed by fans while holding the Finals MVP trophy then rode off into the night.

On Oct. 17, 2017, Durant drove back to the arena for Golden State’s 2017-18 opener. On the way, he recalled the magnitude of Game 5.

“You always have that feeling,” Durant said. “Especially riding down the same streets you ride to get to the games.”

No wonder everything felt familiar.

At just 18 weeks, the Warriors (and Cavs) in 2017 had the shortest offseasons in NBA history.

Teams’ 2020 offseasons could be far shorter – and longer. Coronavirus has completely disrupted the calendar.

Even the fist-eliminated of the 22 continuing teams would have an offseason of just about 15 weeks. For teams advancing deep in the playoffs, the offseason would be far shorter – as few as seven weeks.

On the flip side, the eight already-finished teams could have 38-week offseasons.

That’s based on the NBA’s tentative schedule. The league is slated to resume play July 31 with 16 days of seeding games. Play-in games and the playoffs are planned to run through Oct. 12 if the NBA Finals reach a Game 7. The target date for starting next season: Dec. 1.

Of course, that could all change. Coronavirus can ruin the best-laid plans. National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts expressed reservations about beginning next season so soon.

But that’s the timeline we have right now, and it’s the one I’m analyzing here.

The average NBA offseason has been nearly 27 weeks. It seems no teams will come close to that – on either side – in 2020.

Here are the shortest offseasons ever with projections for this offseason:

NBA offseason

In 2017, the NBA moved its start date from late October to mid October in order to add a week to the season. That’s why Golden State and Cleveland got such short offseasons after playing in the 2017 NBA Finals. The league wanted to increase rest days during the season.

Likewise, I’m assuming the NBA will schedule all 22 continuing teams for the first and last days of seeding games. That way, each team’s eight seeding games will spread over the longest possible range.

The projection also has all teams starting Dec. 1. Almost certainly, some teams will begin next season a day or two after the league’s opening night. However, the deepest-advancing playoff teams are the most likely to be featured on opening night. On the other hand, the NBA Finals won’t necessarily reach Game 7.

So, feel free to adjust by a few days in either direction.

But the picture is clear: All 22 continuing teams are set to have historically short offseasons. For each round a team advances in the playoffs, shave at least a week from its offseason.

And then there are the Warriors, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Pistons, Hawks, Knicks, Bulls and Hornets. They played their last games March 10 or 11. For them, a Dec. 1 start is incredibly late.

Many of these eight teams are among the least likely to get an opening-night game. That could extend their offseasons another day or two.

When it’s all said and done, the eight finished teams could be idle for nearly 38 weeks.

The longest offseasons came with the 1999 and 2011 lockouts. The ranges:

  • 1999-00: 33 weeks and four days to 41 weeks and six days
  • 2011: 27 weeks and six days to 36 weeks and five days

Aside from that, the longest offseason was 34 weeks and five days by the Philadelphia Warriors in 1954. After missing the 1954 playoffs, the Warriors started the 1954-55 season two weeks after everyone else. That’s an outlier.

The next-longest offseasons were 33 weeks and four days (Philadelphia Warriors and St. Louis Hawks in 1955). Beyond that, all offseasons have been 32 weeks and six days or fewer.

What will this mean for the 2020-21 season?

People recall the 1999 lockout-shortened season as sloppy with players out of shape. The 2011-12 season was viewed as thrilling with a Christmas start and just 66 games.

Some of this is perception. All of it is unpredictable.

At least there’s some precedent for long offseasons. The short offseasons for continuing teams? There are no prior examples.

And the mix of teams coming off offseasons of such varying lengths? Forget about it. There has never been anything nearly like it. Add the start-stop-start of this season, and everything gets even further from the norm.

The 2020-21 season is setting up to be the ultimate rest-vs.-rust debate – but with far too many variables to draw conclusions. It’ll just be chaos.

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
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Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

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Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.

Wembanyama scores 37, Scoot Henderson 28, as both make case to go No.1

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The NBA league office hates tanking — the action, the word, the mere suggestion of it.

But there is going to be some serious tanking in the NBA this season, and anybody who watched the Victor Wembanyama vs. Scoot Henderson game Tuesday (also known as the G-league Ignite vs.  Metropolitans 92 from France) knows exactly why.

What. A. Show.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, showed why he is a true 7’4″ unicorn who can do seemingly anything. He finished the game with 37 points, hitting 7-of-11 from 3, with five blocks, showed off some handles and even brought the ball up court a couple of times.

This play sums him up well: at 7’4″ Wembanyama is the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, looks smooth, and when the defender goes under the pick casually drains a 3.

Scoot Henderson, expected to go No.2 in the next draft, flashed his explosive athleticism to the tune of 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds.

Ja Morant was impressed.

There was a lot for fans, scouts, and GMs to be impressed with.

For all his shooting an offensive game, Wembanyama was just as impressive on defense. His length and mobility forces players to change their driving angles to the rim. He also showed a fearlessness in going after the big block.

Henderson showed high-level athleticism and an ability to get to the rim at will, but he also set up teammates and an improving shot. Henderson is a dynamic athlete and a season playing against the men of the G League is only going to sharpen his skills.

Henderson made his case Tuesday to be the No.1 pick — scouts say he has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone point guard, a top-10 player in the league, and he looked it in this game. He showed no fear, even going at Wembanyama a few times.

However, Wembanyama will go No.1 because he just breaks the mold, there is nobody like him. Anywhere. He looks like a generational talent, even if there is some work to do to realize it. Wembanyama started to show that Tuesday night.

These two teams face off again on Thursday night in Henderson, Nevada.

Royce O’Neal on Durant, Irving trade rumors: ‘That was the summer’

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets
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The Brooklyn Nets are trying to move on from a turbulent, awkward summer where their two best players tried to get tradedone throwing down a “me or the coach and GM” ultimatum — and they are tired of talking about it.

It sounds like they have moved on from the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving drama in the locker room, at least based on what Royce O’Neal told Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

“That was the summer. Nobody cares about it now. We’re all here, and we’re going to make it work. We have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to go. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

No doubt that is the mantra in the locker room, and it’s easy to do during the carefree, optimistic days of training camp or even the first preseason games. The players believe they have moved on.

The real question about these Nets is what happens when adversity hits? And it will hit, it does every team. How will Ben Simmons handle the stress? Irving? Can coach Steve Nash keep the Nets all on task, or will the finger-pointing start, and will the locker room get split?

Those questions are why everyone is finding it hard to predict these Nets — they could win a ring, they could have Durant demanding a trade again by Christmas. Most likely they land in the middle somewhere, but every possibility is on the table.

Speaking of teams being broken up, Scotto also asked about O’Neal’s former team, the Utah Jazz, and Danny Ainge’s decision to trade Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this summer. Ainge said “this team didn’t believe in each other,” but that’s not how O’Neal saw it. He was surprised the team was blown up.

“I was definitely shocked. I had been there for five years. The team we had for a couple of years fell short. I thought we were going to build on it. Things happened, so keep it moving.”

The question is will the Nets keep moving when things get hard?