This year is unlike any other, not only in the NBA but in just about every other facet of life, and before we discuss the playoffs it’s important to know how the league is picking up where they left off on March 12th.
Eight teams were hopelessly out of contention, thus there are 22 teams at the bubble in Walt Disney World with only 16 seeds available. There will be eight regular-season, or seeding, games that each team will play to determine the playoff hierarchy. Those games will be held from July 30th through August 14th.
Once those eight additional games have been played the only unresolved matter will occur if the eighth seed in each conference has less than a four-game lead over the ninth seed. In that case, the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds will meet in a “play-in” mini-tournament (maximum two games) in which the No. 8 seed would have to get defeated twice to be eliminated while the No. 9 seed is bounced after just one loss.
According to the NBA odds, the LA Lakers at +250 are the favorites to win the championship and if we look at the standings before the season resumes on Thursday, July 30th, the playoff pairings would look like this:
(1) Bucks vs. (8) Magic
(2) Raptors vs. (7) Nets
(3) Celtics vs. (6) 76ers
(4) Heat vs. (5) Pacers
(1) Lakers vs. (8) Grizzlies
(2) Clippers vs. (7) Mavericks
(3) Nuggets vs. (6) Rockets
(4) Jazz vs. (5) Thunder
The San Antonio Spurs just barely made the cut and will be gunning to at least get the ninth seed, allowing them to play the eighth seed for a spot in the playoffs. There is history on the line as the Spurs seek their 23rd consecutive playoff appearance, which would make them the first team in NBA history to do so.
San Antonio coach, Gregg Popovich, ignored the historical aspect when asked about returning, “We want to get back to work. We want to do what we’re all used to doing. We want to do as much as we can, safely, to energize the country, to play the games we all love. And as long as we can do that safely, it’s a big win for everybody.”
Philadelphia forward, Al Horford, in his first season with the 76ers is eager to get back to business as well, “The intensity is going to start to pick up with the games just meaning much more. This is the position you want to be in.”
The NBA is back and it can’t come soon enough. Let the games begin!
Raptors Show Support for BLM
The reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors are gearing up for another postseason run but management is also making sure that the players know they are simpatico with their social justice initiatives and the Black Lives Matter platform.
Silence is not an option. pic.twitter.com/qpn8sMo2nu
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 9, 2020
Fred VanVleet saw first hand the pair of luxury buses sent to the Ritz Carlton-Naples to whisk he and his teammates away to the NBA’s campus at the Walt Disney World Resort. But what made these buses different than any other VanVleet had seen was the large block lettering on both sides of each bus that loudly spelled out “Black Lives Matter”.
“It was dope,” VanVleet said. “They didn’t even tell us they were doing that.”
One of the major concerns many of the players had entering the NBA bubble, aside from months away from their families during a global pandemic, was the very real possibility of being a distraction from the social justice fight that had brought Black Lives Matter back to the forefront. Making millions of dollars, while simultaneously hurting the cause many of the NBA players believe in so fervently, was not only a bad look but a bad message to send to those on the front lines protesting and supporting social justice for African Americans.
VanVleet addressed just such a concern, “Our performance on the court is a distraction. People love sports, and it takes you away from whatever you got going on. It’s going to be our job and the league’s job to give you the entertainment and still give you the message at the same time. We have a lot of great players and great leadership. We’re going to keep finding great ways to get our message across.”