Season Over but Questions Remain for the NBA

With the conclusion of the unprecedented 2020 NBA Finals, surely the world would recognize how much of a success that conclusion is in of itself. But alas, the year is still 2020 (somehow) and we’ve only grown more impatient as sports fans since we temporarily lost sports for that brief but ever so memorable period earlier during this pandemic. Sure enough, Monday morning arrived and like clockwork so did NBA analysts’ far too early predictions for the upcoming season.

Firstly, congrats to the Los Angeles Lakers for having obtained championship number 17 in their storied franchise history. Having now tied their rival the Boston Celtics’ title count, the Lakers seemed poised to at least be Finals contenders for their upcoming campaign. Yes, the Western Conference will be stacked per usual and yet it might get more superstar talent. That is if rumors surrounding reigning back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo potentially moving to the Dallas Mavericks are true. However, there are larger looming questions remaining for the NBA as it readies for its 75th season.

The first question that comes to mind is how will the league prepare for the possibility that the season will begin without a vaccine for COVID-19. Will the NBA continue to use the bubble city format it established this year in ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, FL? Since the 2019-2020 season was resumed on July 30, the NFL started their season and allowed for teams to decided on whether or not fans would be allowed in attendance. More and more teams are beginning to allow fans in with the caveat that there will be limited stadium capacity and all fans must adhere to respective guidelines in regards to COVID safety protocols such as mask mandates.

Another question garnering much attention is when will the league plan on starting it’s upcoming season. The phrase “foreign territory” went out the window back in March when the league was forced to ultimately suspend its season in the wake of it’s first positive COVID test. At this point in time, with everything that’s going on, the NBA might as well be on freaking Jupiter. In order for the next season to start and to go off without a hitch, they have to be realistic with themselves. It’s October and rather than preparing for the start of a new season, the NBA just completed their last one. Now, the league must navigate through an offseason that will go down as unlike any other. The annual NBA Draft has been changed and shifted to a videoconference format. Rather than having the usual four months or so to prepare for their inaugural seasons, rookies will most likely have half that time in offseason preparation. This is assuming that there is truth to the rumors suggesting that the league is seriously looking at starting their upcoming season sometime in January 2021 (the NBA draft is slated for November 18).

Plenty more questions linger in the air as the NBA continues to operate in this extraordinary time for sports and for the world in general. Was the Orlando bubble a one-off experiment or a soon-to-be familiar sight? Will the players’ bodies hold up if they do attempt to play two full seasons within this close proximity of each other? How can the league ensure fans that, if allowed in arenas, they will uphold COVID safety protocols? Will James Dolan ever relinquish ownership of the New York Knicks and set them free to hopefully win a playoff series for just the second time since the turn of the millennium?

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