NBA Schedule

Mark Cuban Shares Proposal For Return To Play

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski detailed earlier today, the format for the NBA’s potential return to play this summer is a topic of much debate within the league right now. Teams at the top of the standings will have different motivations than bottom-feeding clubs or those on the fringes of playoff contention, leading to disagreement over which format would make the most sense for the league as a whole.

On Monday, we discussed the possibility of the NBA re-seeding playoff teams, regardless of conference, for its 2020 playoffs. Earlier today, we explored the idea of what a World Cup-style play-in pool would look like in place of the usual first round. Now, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has shared his own proposal with ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

Cuban would like to see all 30 teams return to action and play approximately five to seven regular season games, as MacMahon relays. Once those games were completed, these steps would follow:

  • The top 10 teams from each conference would make the playoffs.
  • Those teams would be re-seeded from 1 through 20 based on regular season record.
  • The Nos. 17 and 20 teams and the Nos. 18 and 19 teams would face one another in a pair of single-elimination or best-of-three matchups.
  • The winners of those matchups would advance to face the Nos. 15 and 16 teams for the final two spots in the playoff bracket.
  • The postseason would proceed with its usual best-of-seven format from there, using 1-16 seeding rather than an East/West divide.

Cuban pointed out that such a format would give every team except the Warriors and Timberwolves a chance to qualify for at least the play-in tournament. Assuming safety and scheduling concerns didn’t get in the way, bringing every team back and playing several regular season games would also help out the league financially, allowing a number of clubs to fulfill their local TV deals, tweets MacMahon.

Cuban, who referred to his proposal as “fair” and “entertaining,” expressed concern about the play-in pool format that has been discussed by the NBA, according to MacMahon. The Mavericks owner argued that the group-stage concept “throws away the value of the whole season.”

Of course, it’s worth noting that Cuban’s proposal would benefit the Mavs. They currently hold the NBA’s 13th-best record and – given their current cushion – would have no chance of slipping to 15th and being part of his proposed play-in tournament. If the NBA used another form of play-in tournament, putting the seventh and eighth seeds in each conference up for grabs without playing any regular season games first, Dallas would be at risk of losing the No. 7 spot in the West.

Community Shootaround: Play-In Pool Format

As the NBA considers how to resume its 2019/20 season, one of the many scenarios the league has discussed is a play-in pool format similar to one used by soccer’s World Cup and other international competitions. This concept was first reported over the weekend by Shams Charania of The Athletic, but Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer took a deeper dive on the idea today, observing that it has some support within the league office.

As O’Connor explains, the idea would be to bring back 20 of the league’s 30 teams — the 16 current playoff clubs and the four with the next-best records (the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, and Spurs).

Those teams would then be split into four groups of five teams each, based on regular season records, and would play each other two times apiece. The two teams in each group with the best records after those eight games would then advance to an eight-team playoff that would look more like the NBA’s traditional second round.

According to O’Connor, a survey sent to NBA general managers about the idea noted that groups would be determined by splitting teams into five tiers based on their records, then forming groups consisting of one team from each tier. For instance, the tiers would look something like this:

  • Tier 1: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers
  • Tier 2: Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat
  • Tier 3: Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, Sixers
  • Tier 4: Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic
  • Tier 5: Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs

From there, groups could be determined in a couple different ways, per O’Connor. One option would be to conduct a random drawing, perhaps with measures in place to avoid having any one group of five teams become a “group of death.” Such a drawing could be televised. The other option, as O’Connor details, would be to have the four teams in the top tier draft their own groups based on preferred opponents.

Either way, the end result would be four groups of five teams, one from each tier. One group could include the Bucks, Jazz, Rockets, Nets, and Pelicans, for instance — or the Clippers, Nuggets, Sixers, Grizzlies, and Kings. Those groups would play eight round-robin games – two against each opponent – and, as noted above, the top two teams in each group would advance to a more traditional postseason. In the event of a tie in a group’s standings, the clubs’ regular-season records could potentially be used a tiebreaker, says O’Connor.

As O’Connor outlines, there are reasons why this concept would appeal to the NBA over a typical best-of-seven first round, with commissioner Adam Silver exploring experimental formats in the hopes of increasing interest in the league’s return.

A play-in pool would help generate constantly-changing, entertaining “first-round” matchups over the span of two or three weeks and would help keep casual fans entertained, avoiding locking in four or more games of a potentially one-sided first round series such as Bucks vs. Magic. And the outcome of each game would be of the utmost importance as teams jockeyed for position within their groups.

A play-in pool would also guarantee the NBA more games — eight first-round series would result in no more than 56 total games, and likely closer to 40 or 45. Having 20 teams play eight games apiece would mean 80 total contests, O’Connor notes. He acknowledges it’s not clear how those games might count toward existing agreements with the NBA’s regional or national broadcast television partners, but suggests a tweaked deal with those networks could probably be reached fairly painlessly.

Finally, a play-in pool would give fringe contenders like Portland and New Orleans the chance to extend their seasons while not requiring lottery-bound clubs like Golden State to resume play. Additionally, this format wouldn’t require those fringe teams like the Blazers and Pelicans to conduct a multi-week training camp and report to a “bubble” location (likely Orlando), only to be eliminated after a single game or two in a play-in tournament.

Still, that’s not to say that the play-in pool idea is the frontrunner at this point. O’Connor acknowledges that some Eastern Conference teams have pushed back against the idea, and ESPN’s Zach Lowe hears from sources that a number of current playoff teams weren’t “initially enthusiastic” about the idea.

The play-in pool format would also mean jumping directly to the postseason, creating financial complications. Players hoping to earn as much of their full 2019/20 salaries as possible may push back against the idea of essentially canceling the rest of the regular season. On top of that, the league’s annual playoff pool ($24MM) would have to be increased to account for additional teams and games, so the NBA and NBPA would need to figure out where that money comes from.

What do you think? Are you intrigued by the idea of a play-in pool replacing the first round for 2020, or does it sound a little too off-the-wall to seriously consider?

Head to the comment section below to share your two cents!

Latest On Potential Resumption Of NBA Season

The NBA has a number of important conference calls scheduled for this week as it continues to discuss the possible resumption of the 2019/20 season.

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the league’s advisory/finance committee will have a call on Wednesday to talk about potential plans. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says a call with the league’s general managers will take place on Thursday. A Board of Governors call is scheduled for Friday, as previously reported.

According to Wojnarowski, the NBA may present a recommendation to its team owners on Friday, but that’s not guaranteed, since the league believes it still has some time to further deliberate. Sources tell ESPN that the possibility of games resuming in August – rather than July – remains a possibility for the NBA.

As the NBA continues to preach patience, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts has started to push for a resolution to the league’s deliberations. Roberts, who plans to speak with players from all 30 teams over the next week to determine how they feel about the NBA’s reopening plans, tells ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that players overwhelmingly want to play, but need details on what it will look like.

“It’s time. It’s time,” Roberts said. “It’s been two and a half months of, ‘What if?’ My players need some level of certainty. I think everybody does.”

Roberts added that she doesn’t think the players’ union would necessarily need to conduct a formal vote on an NBA proposal when it arrives, since the NBPA has stayed in constant communication with the league, which has a pretty good sense of how its players are feeling.

“If we thought we needed a vote, we would. If we’re ratifying a CBA, we need a vote,” Roberts told Shelburne. “But our preferred method is talking to people or just having them talk to us. Then if we get a sense of what the sentiment is then we can move forward. We talk to our players and figure it out.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s plans:

  • There’s no strong consensus among NBA teams and executives about what the league’s return to play should look like, according to Wojnarowski. For instance, the idea of all 30 teams participating has “lost momentum,” but “still has a significant lobby.” Teams like the Hawks, Cavaliers, and Pistons are interested in resuming play, per Woj, who notes that some young, rebuilding squads are wary of taking the summer off and having a nine-month layoff before the start of next season.
  • On the other hand, there’s some ambivalence among lottery-bound teams about returning, particularly if they have no path to the postseason, Woj writes. Damian Lillard has publicly expressed this sentiment, as we relayed this morning. Commissioner Adam Silver is also prioritizing player safety and is wary of the possibility of subpar basketball if all 30 teams are brought back — the combination of the long layoff and stars on lottery teams sitting out could create a “bad television spectacle,” notes Woj.
  • Some agents are also hinting to GMs that their free-agent-to-be clients may not want to jeopardize their stock by playing poorly in a brief return this summer if there’s no path to the playoffs for their teams, according to ESPN’s report.
  • One starting player on a lottery team offered the following assessment, according to Woj: “If we don’t show up, we lose more money. We are already in the hole. And what message does it send to the public, the teams, the players that we are OK with 10-to-14 teams not playing. We already have a competition problem in the league. … My thing is: Play 30 teams for as many games as possible for the money, or go straight to the playoffs.”
  • According to O’Connor, Silver is interested in trying something different with this year’s playoffs because he wants to boost interest and appeal to casual fans at a time when all eyes will be on the NBA’s return. O’Connor lays out, in detail, the possibility of turning the first round of the postseason into a World Cup-esque “group stage,” which is something the NBA has discussed — we’ll have much more on that concept in a story coming later this afternoon.

NBA Issues Survey To GMs On Possible Formats To Resume Season

In a recent survey sent to the NBA’s 30 general managers, several different proposals for play formats were proposed as the league weighs resuming the 2019/20 season, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports.

Ranging from a direct-to-playoffs format to resuming the regular season, a number of different scenarios are mentioned. As the NBA zeroed in on Disney World in Orlando to resume play sometime in mid-July, the following scenarios are on the table:

  • Playoffs: The top eight teams in each conference would advance directly to the postseason.
  • “Playoffs Plus”: Increasing the number of teams that receive a chance to continue playing through either a play-in tournament or replacing the playoffs first round with a group stage.
    • Note: The number of teams to return in this scenario would be either 18, 20, 22, or 24.
  • Regular Season: Under this proposal, all 30 teams would resume the season where it ended and continue on as scheduled.
  • Regular Season + Play-In:  All teams play the same amount of games which would then include a play-in tournament and conclude with a traditional postseason.
  • Playoffs Plus play-in: A play-in tournament which includes bubble teams playing for the eighth seed; a play-in tournament for the seventh and eighth seed; or a stage that replaces the first playoff round and all groups. In this scenario, every team would play two games against each group opponent and the top two teams from each group would advance to a traditional second round.

Further discussions in the survey include the amount of scrimmage games that would be played before a restart (between two and five), the total number of regular-season games that would be played (72 or 76), whether or not to do a traditional playoff format or reseed all teams, and when the season would end (Labor Day, Sept. 15, Oct. 1, Oct. 15 or Nov. 1).

Discussions continue on how and when the NBA season could be resumed safely and without fans in attendance.

Woj On Durant, Schedule, NBA Finances, More

Although Nets general manager Sean Marks isn’t willing to close the door on the possibility of Kevin Durant returning to the court if the 2019/20 season resumes this summer, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski sounds prepared to slam that door shut.

In the latest episode of his Woj Pod, speaking to guests Rachel Nichols and Bobby Marks, Wojnarowski suggested that we still shouldn’t expect to see Durant make his comeback until the 2020/21 season gets underway.

“Kevin Durant’s not coming back to the Nets this year,” Woj said. “That’s not happening… They’re not playing him.”

While Wojnarowski didn’t go into detail on the Durant situation, his comment came during a discussion about teams being wary of rushing players back this summer, following a brief ramp-up period. The implication in Durant’s case is that the potential reward for the seventh-seeded Nets wouldn’t be worth the risk of possibly compromising the star forward’s health for next season.

Here are a few more takeaways from the latest Woj Pod episode:

  • Asked by Nichols if the NBA might play a shortened season in 2020/21 – particularly if it starts around Christmas – Wojnarowski stressed that’s very unlikely. As he explains, the league will be doing all it can to recoup lost revenue next season, which will mean playing as many games as possible (ideally 82) in ’20/21. In other words, if the regular season starts in December, it will likely run into June, with the Finals potentially ending next August.
  • During the podcast – and in a subsequent article for ESPN.com – Wojnarowski observed that the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to create major imbalances throughout the league. For instance, if certain states permit fans in arenas at the start of next season and others don’t, that could create a major earnings disparity between many of the league’s franchises, which could lead to competitive imbalance.
  • Additionally, as Woj details, a number of smaller-market teams rely on the NBA’s revenue-sharing model and benefit from huge gate receipts from markets like Los Angeles, New York, and Golden State. If franchises in those big markets still can’t allow fans in arenas when the 2020/21 season begins – or have to do so on a limited basis – it would have a ripple effect throughout the rest of the league.
  • Discussing the potential resumption of the 2019/20 season, Wojnarowski noted that the NBA will have to sell many of its lottery teams on prioritizing the “greater good” of the league — even if some of those teams would benefit (financially and otherwise) from simply canceling this season and focusing on 2020/21. Warriors head of basketball operations Bob Myers addressed this subject last week, vowing that his team would be “good partners” if and when the season resumes.

Next Season Could Be Pushed To December

There is growing support from NBA team owners to delay the start of the 2020/2021 season until December, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the league’s Board of Governors continued discussions on Friday about pushing back next season from its usual October launch date.

By pushing the start of the season to December, the NBA could increase its chances of having fans in the arenas for as many games as possible. These discussions are independent of whether this season is ultimately resumed or canceled, Wojnarowski adds.

Talks have centered on starting the season prior to Christmas and completing it in late July or early August. The NBA draft and free agency would be pushed back until after the season.

Earlier in the day, the Board voted to postpone the draft lottery and the draft combine. It hasn’t voted on delaying the June 25 draft but that seems like a formality at this point.

NBA Continues To Mull Possible Playoff Scenarios

As industries across North America and around the world continue to be hit hard by the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, NBA executives are still hanging onto hope that the 2020 postseason can be salvaged, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

“They’re very determined to have a champion,” one source told The Post.

League executives are hoping it will be possible to play five-to-seven regular season games followed by a 16-team playoff, according to Berman, who suggests those games would all happen in a single city and would be played behind closed doors. The NBA only wants to consider a single-elimination postseason as a last resort, but reducing each round to a best-of-three series is a possibility. One league official tells Berman that “nothing is off the table.”

Previous reports have suggested that the NBA would like to have each team play at least 70 regular season games, since there’s language in regional TV deals calling for a minimum of 70 local games. However, that has become less of a priority as of late, according to Berman, who adds that that idea of completing the full regular season is essentially a non-starter at this point.

A best-case scenario might see the NBA resume its 2019/20 season in late June or early July, with the intent of pushing the start of the ’20/21 campaign back to December, says Berman.

As for where the season might be completed if it resumes, one report last week said the league was eyeing Las Vegas as a candidate, since the city has multiple venues and has a preexisting relationship with the NBA as a result of Summer League. Berman confirms that Vegas is a possibility, but suggests the NBA has also had “internal talks” about locales such as Orlando, Atlantic City, Hawaii, and Louisville.

Coronavirus Notes: NBA Schedule, Workouts, Positive Tests

As NBA observers continue to speculate that the current suspension could inspire the league to experiment with its schedule in 2020/21, Chris Mannix of SI.com explores the pros and cons of an NBA regular season that would run from December to June instead of October to April.

As Mannix notes, much of the resistance to such a format change over the years has stemmed from the belief that there simply aren’t as many television viewers in the summer months, which could negatively impact the NBA’s playoff ratings. However, Mannix points out that summer programming has never been particularly strong, which contributes to those low viewership numbers. In recent years, high-profile television programs ranging from HBO series to boxing matches have done well in July and August.

Several players told SI.com that they’d be open to a schedule that includes summer games if it results in a revenue increase for the league. With the current Collective Bargaining Agreement set to run through 2024, as Mannix writes, a revamped calendar could be something for the two sides to discuss for the next CBA.

Here are a few more items related to the coronavirus pandemic and the NBA’s hiatus:

  • Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald takes his own look at possible NBA schedule changes, suggesting that waiting for the next set of full-fledged CBA negotiations may not even be necessary if both sides are on board with the idea of adjusting the calendar.
  • In an interesting story for ESPN.com, Tim Bontemps and Tim MacMahon explore how the training staffs for NBA teams are trying to make sure their players stay active and in shape while facilities around the league are off-limits.
  • East Tennessee State head coach Steve Forbes tweeted on Wednesday night that Maury Hanks is battling the coronavirus. As noted by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), among other reporters, Hanks is a longtime basketball coach and scout who currently works as a college scout for the Pistons.
  • A camera operator who worked the Jazz/Pistons game in Detroit on March 7 is in a medically induced coma after being diagnosed with COVID-19, according to Vincent Goodwill and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports. The man’s friends told Yahoo Sports that he first began feeling ill about a week after that game.

NBA Season Could Stretch Into September

The NBA season could be extended into September in order to determine a winner, rather than cancelling it, several ESPN analysts suggest.

While there’s been talk the league could play into August, this is the first time we’ve heard of potentially playing to the end of summer or even the start of fall.

Appearing on Outside the Lines, Ramona Shelburne declares the league will do all it can to have a team hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy (Video link).

“This is a general sense among owners and players that no matter what they want to salvage the season, if that’s in July, if that’s in August, if that’s in September, so be it,” she said. “I don’t think anyone wants to start a new season without crowning a champion from this season.”

Former NBA player Jalen Rose said players could get ready physically to resume the season fairly quickly and doesn’t see competition with other sports as an issue (video link).

“The NBA could start in mid-June, mid-July, the NBA could start in August,” he said on ESPN’s morning show Get Up. “This idea that you can’t play basketball in September because you don’t want to compete with the NFL is absurd.”

Brian Windhorst echoed Rose’s comments on the same program.

“I think they’ll do whatever it takes, whatever it is on the calendar,” he said. “I don’t think I would rule out September basketball at all.”

NBA Won’t Vote On Schedule Changes At Board Of Governors Meeting

The NBA has informed its 30 teams that it will continue to explore possible changes to the league’s schedule but no longer plans to hold a vote on those changes at this spring’s Board of Governors meeting, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Last month, the NBA sent a memo to its teams detailing proposed schedule changes for the 2021/22 season, including an in-season tournament, a postseason play-in tournament for the seventh and eighth seeds in each conference, and the reseeding of the conference finalists — the league was later said to be reconsidering its idea to reseed the final four teams.

The initial plan was to fine-tune those proposals in the hopes of taking a formal vote at April’s Board of Governors meeting. Instead, it appears the NBA will be a little more patient with the process. That doesn’t mean the proposed tournaments won’t eventually happen though, perhaps still even as early as the 2021/22 season. An April vote would have given teams more time to prepare, but Wojnarowski tweets that the league hasn’t ruled out implementing schedule changes for ’21/22.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), the NBA has been working closely with teams, the players’ union, and stakeholders and wants to continue studying how its ideas could be best implemented and monetized over the long run.

Details like broadcasting rights, arena scheduling, incentives, and timing all need to be worked out, making it a complicated process, as Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer points out (via Twitter). The league hopes to give owners an update at April’s meeting, Woj adds.

In order to institute the proposed schedule changes, the NBA would need 23 of 30 teams to vote in favor of them. Howard Beck of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) notes that commissioner Adam Silver isn’t expected to move forward with a formal vote unless he’s confident he has enough support to approve the changes.