Appearing on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Friday (video link), Ramona Shelburne reported that NBA players she has spoken to are opposed to the idea of advancing directly to the postseason when the league resumes play.
“The one thing that they really don’t want to do is go straight to the playoffs,” Shelburne said. “They might have essentially four months off between March 11 and whenever we get the season resumed, and nobody wants the first meaningful game they play to be a playoff game. They need at least a week – maybe even longer than that – of real games that count for something before they play a playoff game.”
Some of the proposed scenarios for the NBA return would involve just bringing back the 16 playoff teams and advancing directly to the postseason; others would involve only teams at or near the bottom of the playoff picture participating in a play-in tournament. Shelburne suggests that neither of those solutions would be favorable for teams at the top of the postseason picture, who would want some time to shake off the rust and re-establish their chemistry before jumping into the playoffs.
Earlier today, we relayed Shams Charania’s report on the four scenarios the league discussed in its conference call with the Board of Governors call today. We noted in that story that bringing back all 30 teams seems unlikely. Based on Shelburne’s report, it sounds like the NBPA may not be on board with jumping directly to the playoffs with just 16 teams either.
That would leave two scenarios — a World Cup-esque play-in pool, featuring 20 teams, and a “playoffs-plus” option that may feature 22 teams. Shelburne and Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer provided a few more updates on that second option this afternoon, offering the following details:
- Teams within six games of a playoff spot would be invited to participate, per Shelburne (Twitter link). That means the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, Suns, and Wizards would join the 16 current playoff teams.
- All 22 teams would likely play eight regular-season games apiece, then a play-in tournament would be held for the eighth seed in each conference, according to O’Connor (Twitter link).
- While the proposal isn’t yet finalized, it sounds as if conferences would remain in place for the postseason under this scenario, O’Connor adds.
The solution would check off a few boxes for the NBA. It would give every playoff team a solid ramping-up period before the postseason; it would allow many of those 22 teams to reach the 70-game threshold necessary for regional TV contracts; and it would give every team in Orlando something to play for without the league having to bring back all 30 clubs.
However, as O’Connor observes in another tweet, there are some potential downsides as well. Timing could be an issue if the NBA is aiming to resume play on July 31 and requires two or three weeks of regular season games before beginning the playoffs.
Plus, the particulars of the play-in tournament are unclear — for instance, the Magic are currently 5.5 games up on the Wizards and could increase that gap with eight more regular season games to play. Would Washington still be given a chance to steal the eighth seed in that scenario?
There’s no indication yet that the NBA is leaning toward that 22-team concept, and even if the league goes in that direction, it’s possible some details would be tweaked, so we’ll have to wait for further updates on talks between the league, teams, and players. There’s hope that a vote will happen next week.