It’s not ideal, but at least it is a deal.
It’s not completely fair, but it is not completely unfair.
It’s not wholly sufficient, but it is efficient.
And it’s pretty much official, approved now by team owners on Thursday. Players are expected to approve the plan on Friday.
The NBA will finish its season in Orlando, with 22 teams playing eight games each before the playoffs begin. And once they do begin, they will look like most traditional postseasons of the past, with best-of-seven series in every round.
En route to qualifying, there will be a play-in scenario for the eighth-seeded spot in each conference, with eighth and ninth-place teams within four games of each other battling in a potential two-game tournament to see who gets in.
From there, the top eight in each conference go at it, same as it’s been in past years. The Jazz currently sit in fourth place in the West. They could move in either direction through the eight remaining pre-playoff games. Oklahoma City is one game behind them in fifth, Houston and Dallas are tied at 2.5 games back. Denver is 1.5 games ahead in third and the Clippers are three games ahead in second.
Mixed in with that is the fact that there will be no gimmes in the remaining games, with the worst teams in the league left out. Will that help or hurt a team like the Jazz? It’s a mystery.
In the run-up to an answer will be individual workouts and a second team training camp for the Jazz in Salt Lake City and Orlando. Since the first games in Florida are scheduled for July 31, that gives teams time to prepare and coordinate and reorient themselves.
Beyond the concerns about the coronavirus, there had been worry about a different kind of plague in the restart: injuries. With the increased intensity around the playoffs and playoff positioning, some had fretted that injuries, after players having three months off from competitive games, would hover over teams. It’s possible, but, given extra rest, there would seem to be little more increase in risk under this scenario than there would be over the final weeks of a typical, brutally-long continuous regular season.
The COVID-19 factor, the devil that interrupted the NBA, and darn-near everything else around the world, remains a difficulty.
Players will be tested daily and will exist in a bubble-like environment, although the league hates that description, around the hotels and gyms and golf courses and outdoor eateries at the Disney complex. Fans will not be in the stands and players’ proximity to family members will be restricted. Those family members will be subjected to the same testing the players will.
All of which is to say, this whole thing, while widely speculated on for weeks, will be weird, unlike anything players or coaches or fans from afar have ever experienced.
If there is a bright side to it, it’s this: The strange circumstances away from the gyms could add unpredictability to the competitive question inside them. Before the pandemic halted play, it was absolutely clear that the Bucks, the Lakers and the Clippers were the best teams in the league.
Don’t know if that will change. But it could.
Nobody knows with any exactness how any of the teams will shape into form upon return. Which will coordinate quickly, which will take longer, which players will be distracted, which will be dialed in.
One thing the Jazz know is that they’ll do their business without second-leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic, out from wrist surgery. That will throw a heavier load on Joe Ingles and Mike Conley and Georges Niang, and that load will be spread on down the line.
There is almost no doubt that talent will not be affected by the layoff. Great players will remain great, decent will be decent, marginal will be marginal. But the coordination issue is the most intriguing and important of all, other than overall safety. Is it an enlarged advantage, in this situation, that the Lakers have LeBron James and Anthony Davis, that the Clippers have Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, that the Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo, and nobody else does? And that talent will be more significant than it’s ever been, in the time warp under the bubble, as other teams attempt to get their acts together?
And does that mean the Jazz will have to rely even more on stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert? The Jazz have always been a team that counts on communication and coordination, working and working as they do for the right shot. If someone is out of place or the work is put in, but the shot is missed, they are more likely to fade. Coordination questions also are apparent at the defensive end. Straight out of the gate this season, they lost seven of their first 12 games. Out of the All-Star break, they suffered four consecutive losses.
On the other hand, the power of the mind is remarkable, and even if every Jazz player doesn’t have a regulation court attached to his house the way Conley does, they all have had time to think through what Quin Snyder prefers them to do to make the Jazz run smoothly, at both ends. While Conley struggled early in the season in his adjustment to the Jazz, he’s had enough of a taste of what they do firsthand on the floor to have benefited from additional time to process it in his mind during the stoppage.
That’s part of the intrigue. Every team has those questions and uncertainties in their collective consciousnesses and therefore, perhaps, surprises in store. We don’t know.
Imperfections notwithstanding, that’s the best thing about what remains of this anything-but-ordinary NBA season, its playoffs, and now the plan to continue them. Not knowing.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 The Zone.