In the past few days, the NBA has begun messaging that they are targeting a return to play in July. This has come after weeks of communication between the NBA teams and players, as well as Adam Silver and the league’s office of how exactly the NBA will operate when it returns.
As of now, it appears that 22-teams will participate in the so-called bubble in Orlando at Disney World, with approximately eight regular season games played to determine final rankings, a small play-in tournament between the 8th and 9th seeds the respective conferences, and then the playoffs formally begin, potentially ending in Mid-October.
There have been scant details around the most important questions regarding the return to play, such as how exactly the NBA expects to maintain safe precautions for the players, coaches, and staff. NBA players are expected to make their way to Disney World in early to mid-July to begin practice and a sort of quarantine period, after which player’s families may follow just before playoffs begin and the bubble is locked in.
This begs a few questions, like how will players will arrive without contracting the disease, how will their families arrive and not spread the disease, how will the bubble be maintained, how does the NBA plan procure the coronavirus tests, how will the NBA manage the differentiated risks between the older coaches and staff and younger players, or even what happens when one player tests positive for Covid-19?
But these are the sort of thorny, unfun questions for those with a higher pay-grade than mine. I have very different questions.
How many times will LeBron’s children ride Space Mountain?
Abstractly, a late-July through mid-October run to complete the season makes sense. However, looking at the calendar, it is clear what a ridiculously long time that is for a large group of people to be stuck in one location, much less Disney World. That is 11 to 15 Taco Tuesdays.
Throughout all this time, assuming the Lakers make it to the Finals, LeBron and his family will be hanging out at Disney World. What will his family do in the downtime? Being stuck at Disney World for two and a half months is something out a child’s dream, but can there be too much Disney World? After all, what is Disney World with no staff or other people? Will LeBron commission the park’s staff to dress up as Mickey Mouse and Co. and sign autographs for his children? Will he find a park engineer to pay to operate the rides?
Perhaps a park employee can dress up as Wolverine and explain to the children that prolonged longevity only means that you become dull to the excitement of life without the fear of death (or lines at Space Mountain).
Will there be Coronavirus subterfuge?
Now, of course the coronavirus is an incredibly serious disease that is terrifyingly deadly for the elderly and those with comorbidities. This disease has also ravaged the lives of the young and healthy.
But, NBA players probably have a mixed view of how serious the disease is to them. We do not have to look too far back to find Rudy Gobert joking around and touching all of the microphones at the press conference and reportedly other player’s belongings in the locker room. This just before he tested positive for coronavirus and the NBA suspended play.
Let’s just say that a team without much chance at winning, say the Memphis Grizzlies, had a player like Grayson Allen who may or may not have a history of unsportsmanship-like behavior. And then this said player wakes up feeling a bit under the weather and decides maybe, just maybe, he could best help his team’s chances by sneaking into the Lakers’ locker room and touching everything in sight. What would the appropriate punishment even be if said player was caught?
How will the NBA manage player tampering?
If an image of NBA superstars whispering too each other after a game can spark screaming headlines on Bleacher Report, how will the NBA Media react with Giannis is having dinner with LeBron in the Cinderella Castle?
Will the NBA realize they have to contract with the NSA to monitor constant tampering? Will they realize how much more money they could make if they simply filmed Gregg Popovich holding court at an infamous Spurs Dinner? Tune in on NBATV to watch Pop, Doc Rivers, LeBron, and Chris Paul talk about wine and racism. People would watch that. I would watch that.
What happens if the Rockets win?
Things are going to get weird. NBA players have not played together in months and may be out of shape. The world is going to hell between the pandemic and massive social upheaval. Who knows what will be happening in late-July as we begin closing in on the 2020 Election.
Enter the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets are built to take advantage of the weird. They have no Center and are just going to rain threes all day long. It is utterly conceivable that the Rockets could go on a hot streak in multiple series and win the Western Conference. They are an absolute wild card and could turn this return to play into an utter mockery by hitting 40% on 40 three-point attempts per game.
An asterisk on the championship would turn into a blight and the NBA would consume itself with a discussion of what basketball even looks like.
Of course, this would probably just mean that the Timberwolves would only ramp up their Houston-North efforts, draft LaMelo Ball, and run out three guards, Jake Layman, and Karl-Anthony Towns next year and lose every game 130-145.