The NBA is coming back! That’s awesome and NBA fans will take anything they can get at this moment. But as Jay King eloquently points out, the product might not be that pretty at first. In fact, there’s an elevated level of randomness that could produce some unexpected results.
In some cases, players have been away from basketball courts for months. They have not been able to participate in some of their normal conditioning activities. They have not been able to play pickup games or meet with their skills trainers. Even after some NBA teams opened practice facilities for voluntary workouts, the restrictions in the gyms have been significant. Players in the facilities can’t even compete against each other 1-on-1 or shoot on the same basket. Many players have probably gone without live basketball action for as long as they ever have, at least while healthy. Nothing about this layoff has been normal.
Some normally crisp teams are going to struggle with cohesion. Some players that were healthy headed into the stoppage could struggle to find their rhythm in the shortened season conclusion. In fact, as Daniel Lubofsky points out, Jayson Tatum was on a torrid streak (reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month ...still). One would have to expect that he’ll need some time to get back into that flow again.
And what about the general setup in Disney World? No fans in the stands, games one after another throughout the day (Summer League style), campus living, regular testing and the looming threat of COVID hanging over everything. To put it bluntly, none of this will be normal and it will take a lot of getting used to.
Add it all up and you’re going to get some pretty sloppy basketball games with lots of fouls, turnovers, and low scores.
And you know what? It will still be beautiful.