NBA Interrupted: Our 2020 Post-COVID-19 (Maybe?) NBA What’s Left of the Season Preview

Three months after the season stopped in the NBA, kicking off a reality check about the impact of coronavirus in the United States, the NBA has announced that it will resume its season.

There are still numerous details to be worked out, but the current game-plan calls for 22 NBA teams to relocate to Disney’s 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex – the so-called “Orlando Bubble.” There, a small number of regular season games will be played to determine playoff seeding, with the NBA Finals concluding in mid-October.

We are all Bubble Boy, now. Or, well, the players will be. You get the picture.

And so we bring you The NBA Is Back – Isn’t That Fannnnntastic?!?! 2020 Post-COVID-19 Season Preview. Sports Editors Wai Sallas and Michael Kasdan open a window into the workings of their collective minds as they wind their way through a preview of what’s left of the interrupted 2019-2020 NBA season.


Michael Kasdan:

The 2020 NBA Season – like my commute into NYC for work – has been paused since early March. But not for much longer. Earlier this week, the NBA announced a plan to come back, well for 22 teams, to play eight more regular season games followed by …. Playoffs!

For my Knicks, the season remains decidedly over. But for many NBA fans, this is exciting news.

Between the continuing pandemic and sweeping anti-racism and Black Lives Matter protests across the nation, does sports even matter?

What do you think of the return plan, and what are you most excited about, Wai?


Wai Sallas:

I’m going to try my best to be “Mr. Glass Half Full”, but I’m having a hard time focusing on the NBA returning in under two months with–what seems like–a revolution simmering in the streets, police assaulting innocent Americans daily, and a monster in the white house who has–in the first week of June–ordered the gassing and assault of people exercising their first amendment rights in DC, encouraged US governors to dominate its constituents, and alluded that police-sanctioned murder victim George Floyd would be proud of US unemployment continued rise.

(Now that’s a sentence)

Having said all that, who remembers where the NBA left off in March. I think the Lakers and Clippers were on a collision course in the West. I believe the Milwaukee Bucks were head and shoulders better than anyone else in the East. And I’m pretty sure, Ja Morant and Zion Williamson look the second coming of Derrick Rose and Charles Barkley respectively.

Then again, is the season coming back too soon? Are we setting ourselves up for a disaster if Covid-19 is transmitted at the Magic Kingdom, especially since the Coronavirus disproportionately impacts black and brown people.

What the hell is going on Michael!?


Michael Kasdan:

I hear you, my friend.

The unprecedentedness of our times got a whole lot more unprecedented this past week. And for the fight against racism and police brutality, it’s been a long time coming. I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said.

And I’m glad to see how widespread the protests are and how deeply the outrage at injustice is cutting. It makes me more hopeful that we will finally see real change. It’s on all of us to demand it. Every day.

I’m also glad to see how many athletes are using their platforms to speak out, refusing to “just stick to sports”. These issues are much bigger than entertainment.

So yes, it does feel a bit silly to be focusing on basketball games right now. But the potential return of sports is also a welcome sign of a potential return to normalcy. That’s a comfort food I think many are craving right now. Besides, we can’t be expected to just watch and talk about The Last Dance forever, can we? The 1990s were great and all but here’s hoping we can get on with the 2020s.

So I hope reopening the NBA can be and that it can be done smartly and safely. As far as the season, you hit the high points. Out West, the Lakers and Clippers have the most dominant power pairs in LeBron-AD and Kawhi-Paul George. They’re looking very tough. In the East, Giannis and the Bucks stand head and shoulders above the rest.

But I’m also intrigued by the next tier of teams. Out East, the gritty Nick Nurse led Raptors are elite despite losing Kawhi, the Kemba-Tatum Celtics have lots of weapons but do they have the star power, and the Sixers have trusted the process their way to being a contender, but do the pieces for together well enough to win a championship? And the Heat have a fascinating array of stars, led by Jimmy Butler and an ever improving Bam Adebayo. In the West, the Nuggets have put together a fantastic season. Are Jokic, Jamal Murray and company ready to make The Leap? And then you’ve got the boring but elite Jazz with Donavan Mitchell and Gobert, the surprising OKC Thunder with an emerging Shea Gilgeous-Alexander and a resurgent Chris Paul, and of course the Houston Rockets, who have two of the most electric offensive players in the game in James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Who else do you think can make a run at the Finals, besides the obvious Lakers, Clippers and Bucks?


Wai Sallas:

I would say that this year, everyone has a chance and reminds me a lot of 1999–and I’m not talking about the Prince song (RIP). For those of you not old like me, the ’99 NBA Season was cut short due to greedy owners locking out NBA players. (See: 2020 MLB negotiations for reference) What we got in return was one intense quarter-mile race. It’s not surprising that the Fast and Furious franchise was birthed months later. 50 games in 3 months followed by two radically different playoffs. The Spurs lost one game in the West and the 8th-seeded Knicks pulled off miracle after miracle in the East, before finally flipping their Dodge Charger in a disappointing 5-game NBA Finals Series that saw the Spurs crowned champs.

What I’m saying is we could easily see LA vs. Milwaukee in the Finals, or New Orleans vs Orlando.

Is there more or less of an advantage in the East with less teams vying for the playoffs? Or will the West be in more peak condition because “iron sharpens iron”? Do the Magic have a competitive advantage? Who knows!

What I do know is there will be basketball in July through the Fall, which means we are headed to a September with the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB (Maybe?) and kids going back to school (finally). Might as well declare September a national holiday. That’s right, I said the whole month of September, a national holiday. Fight me!

I guess the real question is who is your top pick to suffer the Shawn Kemp effect and be massively out of shape when the NBA returns?

Michael Kasdan:

The only thing about 2020 that reminds me of 1999 is the lingering fear that the end of the world might be right around the corner. But anyway – back to basketball!

Well not everyone has a chance. My Knicks are done. Awaiting the Lottery. Again.

But you just triggered a fun flashback to me to that 1999 Knicks team. I honestly don’t remember much about the lock out but I do remember that unlike hand magical run by the 8th seed Knicks into the NBA Finals. Those Ewing-Mourning Knicks-Heat battles. Allan Houston hitting the game winner against the Heat. Losing Ewing to an Achilles injury. LJ’s 4 point play to take down the Pacers. The swagger injection brought by Sprewell and Camby and Kurt Thomas. Wow. It’s been 20 long years since for the Knicks.

Back to the present, I’m not sure Orlando has a chance. Despite the Disney “home court” advantage (with no fans in the building). But I hope that you’re right that anything could happen. Lakers or Clippers vs Bucks has felt preordained since the off season, and that’s never much fun for most fans.

Personally, as unlikely as it may be, I’d love to see a magical run by the Doncic-Porzingis Mavericks or this fun young Pelicans or Heat team. I’d even love to see Damian Lillard lead the Blazers on a magical 1999 Knicks-esque Cinderella run!! Heck, we didn’t get March Madness this year. So let’s have some upsets!!

On to your question. My nominees for the 2020 Rainmaker Don’t Reign Shawn Kemp award are … wait, you’re asking me to predict who got fat during quarantine? Not doing it.

Let’s do this instead: You mentioned two electric players earlier – Zion and Ja. Who are some other young guns you’re looking forward to watching perform down the stretch and into the playoffs and two guys whose season is over that you’ll miss?

My two to watch are Bam Adebayo and Brandon Ingram. Their growth has been off the charts.

My two to miss are the Bulls Zach LaVine – we will always have his off season Zoom HORSE run! He’s a joy to watch:

And the Knicks Mitchell Robinson – epic shot eraser and holder of NBA season record 74% FG%.

How about yours?


Wai Sallas:

The homerism is profound, Michael. We know you have a soft spot for Bam, and you have the picture (and article) to prove it! And as much fun as Mitchell Robinson has been, you might be the only Knick fan that will miss them this season.

I guess if I had to choose one guy, it would have to be the Atlanta Hawks and Trae Young. He was really starting to establish himself as one of the most dangerous shooters in the NBA–and just like that–it’s over.

One team who isn’t sad its season is over is Golden State. One year removed from its 5th straight Finals the Warriors will have the worst record in the league and a chance for the number one pick. Do they keep the lottery pick or trade it with some assets for a bonafide star on a team looking to start over. One can only hope Golden State’s 2019 Summer and the impending rise back to the top is what we can all hope for during the second half of 2020.

And I wasn’t talking about a fat Shawn Kemp, I was merely referring to someone who did not pick up a basketball and was severely unprepared for the season. In an article from that season, they asked Kemp what happened and he responded by saying he didn’t think they were coming back so he spent the whole offseason doing nothing.

So I ask again, who wins the 2020 Reign Man award?


Michael Kasdan:

You say “profound homerism,” I say “I”m a fan.” Though my continued Knicks fandom is being tested in terrible and new ways by its terrible ownership.

Trae Young is a great pick. Such a fun player to watch. He’ll forever be tied to Doncic because they were traded for each other, but he is a superstar in his own right.  Dare I say, the new Steph Curry?

Speak of Curry, the Warriors potentially being able to reload by scoring the number one pick – after losing Curry and Klay Thompson to injury and Durant to Brooklyn (and injury) – reminds me of when David Robinson’s Spurs cemented their future run of consecutive playoff appearances by drafting Tim Duncan. Weird that the Spurs are out.

You seem stuck on Shawn Kemp and the 2020 Reign Man award, so – after serious reflection – I’d award it to the Nets’ Kyrie Irving. Durant’s not coming back. They’re a 7 seed. He thinks the earth is flat. Not a lot of motivation there…Your pick?


Wai Sallas:

Noooo Michael, not NY on NY. This cannot stand. I feel like to silence the flat earthers, NASA should select one of them to go in the next space shuttle and just forget about them up there. Kind of like when your child messes up and you send them to their room to think about what they’ve done. Shoot a flat earther to the moon for a year and then ask them what they think about Science and the Earth, but not Kyrie. Speaking of Uncle Drew, have you seen his workout where he defies gravity? Maybe he knows something we don’t.

With regard to my pick for the Reign Man award, it’s definitely NOT Ben Simmons. By the time the NBA starts back up, he’s going to look more like Ben Wallace than Ben Simmons.

I’m going to go with LaMarcus Aldrige–oh wait he’s already out. Then the entire Spurs team. No Aldridge, what’s the point. San Antonio barely made it into the League of 22 with a full roster, so give up, maybe go to Harry Potter World, visit Epcot. Do they still have MGM Studios Theme Park? I always liked that one.


Michael Kasdan:

My gosh, Ben Simmons!! That work-out photo! (Wonder if he was also working on his three point stroke)

MGM Studios is GREAT. One day, I will venture out and go to theme parks again. But I guess for now, we’re at least going to be getting some NBA Action at Disney.

Any final thoughts before we put a bow on this and wrap?


Wai Sallas:

…Oh no. News just broke that there may be a disturbance in the force.

2020 is the worst.


Michael Kasdan:

Ruh roh.

Well. If there’s one thing that’s a certainty about 2020, it’s the uncertainty. Will Disney’s Wide World of Sports be “Where Dreams Come True” for NBA fans?

Truth is, we still have no idea.

Good preview, Wai. Good preview.

Photo Credit: Authors

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