Fans will soon see their superstars on the Basketball court once again this season.
The NBA season will resume on July 30th (July 31st, India Time) in the fashion which no-one would have ever imagined, as the games will be played without spectators. Moreover, the basketball games will be played on neutral courts at the NBA Bubble in Disney Complex in Orlando. There will be only players, referees, trainers, team officials, the League Officer and select mediapersons at the games, to ensure maximum public health safety.
Based on the normal regulations, the top eight teams are ranked, at the end of the regular season, by winning percentage and number of games ahead/behind. Eight teams from each conference will continue to compete in the playoffs. This extraordinary 2019-2020 season was put on hold midway through by the coronavirus outbreak. The remaining regular season needs to be shortened and each team will play only eight matches, which are called the seeding games.
As such, teams that will participate in the seeding games must be teams with the numbers of Game Behind (GB) are less than six games behind the 8th seed before the season was put on hold. Consequently, there will be nine teams from the Eastern Conference and 13 from Western Conference competing in the seeding games for places in the playoffs. This new competition environment may bring many surprises that we have never thought of:
Will home-court advantage still matter?
The playoff statistics indicate the positive impact of home-court advantage, as home teams have won the series by 74%. Regardless of whether the series is a 4-game, 5-game, or 7-game series, the chances of winning are no different. Furthermore, teams with home-court advantage have a 75% chance of winning the first playoff round, 83% for the second round and 70% for the final series. Only at Conference Final series are the chances of winning reduced to 55%.
The NBA is a league with world-class players whose skills, experiences and abilities are not too different. Teams that can master regular-season games and go into the playoffs all have highly capable coaches and staff, therefore, team tactics are also not too different. The only difference is ‘the spirit’ of the home games. With support from fans, particularly, in the loudest arenas, the decibels go off the roof, such as at the Moda Center of the Portland Trailblazers, the Staples Center; home of Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, and the American Airlines Arena of the Dallas Mavericks.
The familiar environment, positive and supportive energy from fans can not only uplift the home team but also can intimidate the visitors tremendously.
Americans are very protective of their personal rights. When the league decided to resume while the virus was still spreading, they decided to allow athletes to exercise their rights to choose whether to play, particularly when the games will be played at the Disney Complex located in Florida, now the US epicentre of the outbreak. Many players have decided not to participate in the competition.
Whether it’s an all-star Bradley Beal, the top scorer of Washington Wizards, Avery Bradley, the playmaker of LA Lakers, and even the role model on and off the field of Indiana Pacers, Victor Oladipo, who recently recovered from injury but decided to inform the team that he would join the team but will not compete in unfamiliar conditions. Let alone another celebrity Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets’ point guard, who has recovered from injury but decided not to participate.
The Gifted Vs the Disciplined
Going through the long break with no staff, coach or physical therapist, how ready will the athletes be? It depends on the discipline and will of each athlete. Some may say that with the NBA played in this new environment, it would be the best opportunity for players like James Harden, who consistently develops his skills by highly-disciplined training programmes, to probably outperform gifted players like Ricky Rubio. But, another critic may have a different opinion, that disciplined players are always performing well only in a familiar environment. When the environment is not the same, a gifted talent like Luca Doncicmay wlll excel.
Let’s keep an eye on things to see who between hard-working talented players and gifted players will rise? Which side will fall?
Another topic that many people; from basketball fans, critics, journalists, league executives, coaches and even some athletes, are worried about is whether this new format of the competition would dilute the charms of the NBA that people all over the world are attracted to. But, don’t forget that the main charm of sports games is the inability to predict what would happen.