Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
For the first time since early March, we will finally be able to watch meaningful NBA games again. We have been without the NBA since March 11, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. To counteract the virus, and ensure the safety of players, coaches, media members and medical officials, the NBA has formed its own bubble.
The bubble is located in Disney World, with the games being played over three different courts in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Players are not allowed to leave the bubble unless they are excused.
The most uplifting part about the season about to tip off is it will go on without a hitch. There have been 344 players and coaches tested for COVID-19 and of those players, none came back positive. A great sign! The latest results before the resumption of the season came on July 20.
There are 22 teams that were invited to the bubble with the hopes of bringing home the Larry O’Brien Trophy in October. The teams that had playoff positions at the suspension of the season were invited along with six others teams, five from the Western Conference and just the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference. Those six teams were invited if they were within six games of the 8th seed in their respective conference. The teams in the West are the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns.
Now here is an interesting twist, if the 8th seed is up four games or fewer, the teams within those parameters will play in a play-in tournament to determine the 8th seed. That’s a pretty cool concept, especially with only eight seeding games taking place.
Of course, these games will be without fans, which will be a unique viewing experience, but something I don’t foresee being an issue.
The players of the NBA are using the spotlight and focus of the bubble to use their voice and their platform to speak out against social injustice and police brutality against Black people. This comes after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers. The police that killed Taylor, Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankinson and Myles Cosgrove have not been arrested after performing a no-knock warrant on Taylor, who they thought was someone else. Players are using their news conferences to continue the talk and demand justice for the death of Taylor.
For us watching the game of basketball on television, we get an escape from reality, as do the players, but not to the same extent. All professional athletes are human just like me and you, so they feel a lot of similar things as we do, only with a platform to speak out on certain things. The three courts will have “Black Lives Matter” painted on them near midcourt. There have already been discussions among teams to kneel during the National Anthem, around the Black Lives Member spot of the court.
The WNBA, which kicked off its season last weekend, does a tremendous job fighting for social justice and speaking out against the police brutality amongst Black people. Both leagues will allow their players to sport messages such as “Say Her Name,” I Can’t Breathe,” “Education Reform,” and “Vote,” on the back of their jerseys. The WNBA dedicated the season to Breonna Taylor.
The NBA restarts the season on Thursday night with a double header on TNT. In the first game, the Utah Jazz will tangle with the Zion Williamson-led New Orleans Pelicans. In the second game, the top two teams in the West will do battle as the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers get together in a matchup featuring LeBron James and Anthony Davis vs Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
8th Seed Predictions: Magic and Trail Blazers
The fight for the 8th seed in the West is going to be a lot of fun. I would love to see Ja Morant, who should win NBA Rookie of the Year, but I see Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum getting into the playoffs.
The top three teams in the East all have a legitimate shot of making it to the Finals, with a couple others right on the verge. The Bucks sport the best record in the league and have Giannis Antetokounmpo, who should be the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. He is due to get to the Finals and I don’t see any team stopping him. The Toronto Raptors are the best story of the NBA season and want to prove they are legit, even if they did lose Leonard last offseason. Nick Nurse is one hell of a coach and will look to further that notion by going back to the Finals with the ultimate goal of repeating. The Boston Celtics will rely on Jaylen Brown and company, which is a good player to rely on. If Kemba Walker is able to go as well, this team has the makings for a championship run.
The “dark horse” of the East is the Philadelphia 76ers. Playing Ben Simmons at the power forward position makes them a little tougher and if he is able to knock down open threes, then lookout. He and Joel Embiid will find a way to make a deep run.
I truly believe this is a two-team race to see who will represent the Western Conference and those teams share the same home arena and city of Los Angeles. When the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis to pair with LeBron and the Clippers signed Kawhi and acquired George, it was a superstar showdown in the making to see who is not only the ruler of LA, but the ruler of the NBA.
LeBron is determined to win title number four and with AD by his side, that very well could come to fruition. Kawhi and PG13 will obviously have something to say about that, which is why this will be a match made in basketball heaven. In the end, I see the Lakers taking down the Clippers in seven games.
The Denver Nuggets have the potential to knock those teams off, especially if Bol Bol can play like he did in the scrimmages this past week. Him alongside Nikola Jokić is a scary problem for anyone who opposes them. Don’t count out the Houston Rockets led by the dynamic duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden gets buckets in droves and Westbrook bring such a high intensity level to the game. I see them surpassing both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz to get to the Western Conference semifinals.
The Finals will go from September 30 until October 13 and in the end, I see the Lakers over Bucks in 7 games.
The resumption of basketball is upon us, giving us a bit more normalcy. I cannot wait to see how this all unfolds over the next three months.
Be kind. Be safe. WEAR A MASK. ARREST THE COPS THAT KILLED BREONNA TAYLOR.
Rest in Peace George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.