An Irregular Season

by Fotis Zarifiou

Here's how the NBA can potentially finish the season

Washington Post

Will the NBA return this season, and if it does come back, will it be the same? In the past few weeks, alongside essentially every professional sports league in the world, the NBA has suspended its season due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Many fans are left unsure of whether or not the league will continue its schedule this year. Due to the uncertainty of when the outbreak will peak, the league administration does not know when the NBA will restart; however, the season will not go back to its normal schedule if it indeed continues this year. With this uncertainty, fans have pitched ideas of what should happen to the NBA. Many fans have suggested awarding the championship to the Milwaukee Bucks or Los Angeles Lakers because they have the best records in the league. This solution may be an easy way out of this difficult situation, but certain fans will be hesitant to accept this decision because many teams are contenders to win the playoffs and finals this year. To cope with this problem, the NBA should alter its schedule for the remainder of the season.

Instead of canceling the whole season, the NBA should have teams play a couple more regular-season games and then start the playoffs. Continuing the season late with a normal schedule would be not the most realistic option. With the uncertain nature of the pandemic, the best-case scenario for the NBA would be to resume the season in a month. Teams still have 17 to 20 more games to play, which would push the ending of the regular season to around June. The playoffs would start about one week later. In a perfect scenario, the winning team never loses a game in their series. Let’s also say that each series takes six days to complete, which ensures rest for the players during the series. In between rounds, there will be a two-day break. If all of these assumptions occur, the finals will end on July 23rd. Normally during the summer-time, NBA teams draft the incoming rookie class and have summer league games to prepare prospects and second-year players. It is also a necessary time for the rest of the players to recuperate from a rigorous and long 82-plus game season. Let’s not forget that after the season ends, the combine, draft, and summer league will take place. Even in this perfect scenario, the NBA would not be able to start next season in mid-October.

Therefore, the NBA should modify their schedule and shorten the rest of the season. The best option for the NBA would be to play about 10 more games in the regular season and slightly adjust the playoff format. Playing 10 more games in the regular season would give the teams on the verge of grasping a playoff spot ample time to reach the top eight in the standings. Again, assuming that the NBA starts in a month, and each of the 10 regular-season games are played one day apart, this new schedule would run through the end of May. The playoffs would start two weeks later, and instead of playing a seven-game series, each round would be determined by a best of five series. This change would allow each team to have an opportunity to make a comeback if they find themselves behind, and each series would last at most 10 days. As a result, the latest date the entire season could end would be around mid-July. If this new schedule was to be put in place, the NBA would have two more months of summer to have the combine, draft, and the six-day summer league, and the next season would start in mid-October.

Sports fans have struggled over the recent weeks with the suspension of one of the most popular leagues in the world. With the absence of NBA games for potentially a few months, fans would appreciate any initiative that allows them to see their favorite teams and players on the court.