When we last left the NBA, the Jazz had it all out of tune.
Rudy Gobert put the Thunder (and subsequently the league) on ice, and Donavan Mitchell did the same for the high school state basketball tournament. Off an assist from 2020’s unwelcome menace, COVID-19.
Imagine that being in the NBA forecast. Imagine further the league’s season finishing with no fans at Walt Disney World. The Lakers and Clippers for the Western Conference final about as far east as you can get in the mainland? And to top it off, the finals, should it go seven games, would end on Oct. 13. That’s two weeks past what would normally be the start of preseason for 2020-21, but for more head-spinning sensations, consider it will be done before the PGA has the Masters (a November reschedule).
Sports Illustrated never had signs of the apocalypse like this.
But here we are.
The 22 teams participating in the season restart will arrive July 7-9, have training camps and scrimmages for the rest of the month, then play eight seeding games each at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
The Thunder are among those and will have eight games in two weeks to determine playoff seeding — and why not — pick it up exactly where it left off with a matchup with the Jazz, 2:30 p.m. Aug. 1. What follows: Nuggets, 3 p.m. Aug. 3, Lakers 5:30 p.m., Aug. 5, Grizzlies 3 p.m. Aug. 7, Wizards 11:30 a.m. Aug. 9, Suns 1:30 p.m. Aug. 10, Heat 7 p.m. Aug. 12 and the Clippers, Aug. 14 at a time yet to be determined.
COVID will be there, starting with a 14-day disabled list when players test positive. Players must remain on the Disney campus. Leae and there’s a 10-day quarantine. And, the NBA will have an anonymous hotline to report potential violations.
That should be fun.
The good news? Players will have manicurists and pedicurists on campus. This is no joke.
Boredom can be alleviated by watching another game on one of three arenas. Following the first round of the playoffs, teams will be allowed to reserve hotel rooms for limited player guests.
Dr. Fauci — full name not needed unless you’ve been under a rock since March — thinks this is workable. But, you really want to make a bet on the outcome of this? Go right ahead. Vegas is churning again, and the money is still on a Bucks-Lakers finals.
But much is unknown. Does LeBron have enough antibodies? Will Giannis Antetokounmpo’s mask work?
Will Disney World seem more like a home game with no travel, or a road game with hotels? The Lakers are 23-8 at home, bested in the West by Denver (25-8) and the Clippers (25-7). In the East, though, the Sixers, seeded sixth at the moment, are 29-2 at home, one game better than the Bucks at 28-3 with the Heat at 27-5. But on the road, only the Bucks stand strong in that group at 25-9, same as Toronto (which is 25-9 at home), the Sixers fall to 10-24 and the Heat at 14-19.
For what it’s worth, Denver has no altitude advantage and Toronto won’t be in Canada.
The Thunder? 20-13 at home, 20-11 on the road.
Media pundits have added the measurement of maturity with teams having to cope with the equivalent of being grounded with the confinement rules. I was a bit concerned about OKC with this measurement, and at 25.53, its just below the average of 26.18. The oldest? The Rockets at 30.24, followed by the Lakers at 29.07, Bucks at 28.73, Mavericks (27.40), Jazz (27.08) and Heat (27.03).
The Clippers (26.69), Blazers (26.79), Kings (26.00) and Spurs (26.79), all part of the Western Conference contenders, also rank above the Thunder, leaving only the Nuggets (25.42), Grizzlies (24.99), Pelicans (25.40) and Suns (the youngest at 24.49) as their juniors.
But hey, youthful swag may help. The Thunder were exceeding expectations as a team before the disruption. And this will give Chris Paul something else to focus on instead of player-repping.
So in record, and other factors, the Thunder are pretty much in the middle of the field where the odds are.
No surprise there.
The biggest surprise: I couldn’t find odds on this thing crashing and Fauci being wrong.