As sports leagues across the nation wait out the coronavirus and contemplate what a return to league play might look like, there’s a solution that could potentially allow the NBA to finish its regular season and begin the playoffs without requiring teams to travel around the country and risk spreading the virus from one basketball court to another.
Rather than trying to compete around the country or picking a few neutral sites to host games, the NBA should relocate the entire league to Las Vegas.
First, the NBA is familiar with Las Vegas already, playing the popular summer league on Vegas courts. Second, Nevada is one of the least impacted states by the coronavirus in the country, with 2,836 cases confirmed. Lastly, there’s no guarantee when the casinos will reopen, meaning the casinos are likely to love the idea of anyone willing to stay there and take over the venues due to the fact Nevada generated $8.76 billion in revenue from gaming last year.
Adam Silver, NBA commissioner, told the media in late March, “there will be no way for the league to make a decision about when it can return until May 1 at the earliest–and probably not even then.”
Senior Nate Cole believes the NBA regular season can still continue around the nation, but it will be shortened.
“I think they will have some sort of regular season continuance when they can resume,” Cole said. “They will play around five to ten games, but they won’t go straight into the playoffs because they want the players to get a couple of games under their belt.”
Because of the coronavirus putting the NBA on hiatus, certain teams were hanging on to an eighth seed, were a game or two behind of getting into the playoffs, or were competing to be the best team in the league. If the remainder of the regular season were to be cancelled, those teams barely out of the playoffs would be eliminated.
Instead of doing a traditional playoff format with the best 16 teams, the NBA should do something that has never been done or something that’s going to make this year unique. Because March Madness was cancelled, the NBA should have a March Madness-style bracket with every team making the postseason. All March Madness rules would apply, such as the single-game elimination until the finals where it would be a series best out of seven.
“I don’t think it would be fair if they did a normal set of playoffs,” Cole said. “I think people would say that a championship is illegitimate because ultimately, every team didn’t have an equal chance, so why not do something unique since we’re in a unique time.”
According to the sports website BleacherReport, an outright cancellation of the NBA doesn’t seem impossible. If the league isn’t able to solve the logistical Rubik’s Cube that would be necessary to complete the 2019-2020 campaign, history would be affected in a number of ways. Nevertheless, math teacher Brian Foecking thinks otherwise.
“It does create less opportunity for individual statistics (total rebounds, points, assists) and teams’ winning percentages may be slightly skewed, but the length of the season and format of the playoffs has changed several times over the years,” Foecking said. “Comparing stats from years ago to now is never apples to apples.”
While he has a valid point, most NBA fans wanted to see if Lebron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo would win MVP. Additionally, whether or not Houston Rockets star James Harden would set a record of missed threes in a season. Had this season played out as expected with Harden appearing in each remaining game, he was on pace for 645 misses. Lastly, the league was on pace for a whopping 29,845 threes made this season. That’s nearly 2,000 more than the record 27,955 that were hit last season.
Without a cancellation of the playoffs, a normal playoff format would likely last into mid-July, which can affect free agency, the draft and future scheduling. With this change, a player’s offseason program can be affected, which can be crucial for the next season. Taking that into consideration, next season could begin as late as December due to the hiatus. In order to avoid all of this chaos in the future, the NBA should definitely consider moving the league to Las Vegas.
“The NBA draft is a major event, and that will certainly be modified,” Foecking said. “It will not be the large group production it normally is, and would need to be pushed back until after the playoffs are finished. Teams will be moving quickly, and players will have less time to make decisions about where they would like to play, so in order to avoid this chaos, move the league to a neutral site.”