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10 Takeaways: The Celtics are (almost) back!

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All you want to know about who, what, when, where, why and how the NBA at Walt Disney World will work

ESPN Wide World of Sports
Keith P Smith

The NBA season has been approved by all the necessary partners to restart in late July at Walt Disney World. This batch of 10 Takeaways is going to break down all you need to know in “who, what, when, where, why and how” style, with a few bonus topics specific to the Boston Celtics thrown in.

1. Who: The approved plan will bring 22 teams to Walt Disney World. The way the NBA determined the 22 teams was bit complex. They looked back at their history and figured out that with an average of 17 games to play, there was precedent of a team coming from as far back as six games out to snag a playoff spot. That means in the Western Conference, they invited five additional teams outside of the current playoff picture. In the Eastern Conference, that process saw the Washington Wizards as the lone extra invitee.

2. What: When teams get to Florida in early-July, they’ll have about a three-week training camp, and likely a couple of warm-up games/scrimmages. From there, each team will play eight “seeding games”. The results of these eight games will be tacked on to teams’ current records.

Where it gets interesting is at the bottom of the playoff standings. If Washington in the East, or one of the five teams in the West, can get to within four games of the playoffs, then we’ll have a play-in process. In that scenario, the ninth-place team will have to beat the eighth-place team twice to make it into the playoffs.

·Let’s do an example in the East: Washington is currently 5.5 games behind the Orlando Magic for the 8-seed. If they can make up that 1.5 games, then Washington and Orlando will take part in the play-in. If Orlando wins once, they are in. If Washington wins two in a row, they are in.

For everyone else, they’ll slot in 1-7 by conference as usual. That means the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers have all but wrapped up the top seeds in each conference. For the Celtics, it’s going to be hard for them to catch Toronto for the 2-seed, but it’s equally as hard for the Miami Heat to catch Boston for the 3-seed.

And, lastly, it’s important to note that the playoffs will be by conference, as they have always been. While 1-16 seeding was bandied about, it’s not happening. And the entire playoffs will be 7-game series, as we are used to seeing.

3. When: The timeline hasn’t been completely finalized, but it’s likely to look like this:

·Mid-June – Players mandatorily return to team facilities

·Early-July – Teams arrive at Walt Disney World

·July 31 – Seeding games start

·Mid-August – Playoffs start

·August 25 – 2020 NBA Draft Lottery

·October 12 – Latest possible date for NBA Final Game 7

·October 15 – 2020 NBA Draft

·Mid-October (following Draft) – Free agency opens

·Early to mid-November – Training camp opens

·December – 2020-21 season starts. This date is expected to fall somewhere between December 1 and December 25.

Walt Disney World Gate
Keith P Smith

4. Where: The NBA is going to Walt Disney World! Players will stay on Walt Disney World property (likely in one to three resorts) and will play games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Back in mid-April, this article broke down what the facilities are like at the ESPN Wide World for Sports. While players won’t be in a “bubble” in the strictest terms, they will be limited in movements. Your favorite NBA star isn’t going to be spotted riding Space Mountain, but he get some rounds of golf in if he wants. And forget about planning a trip hoping to stumble on the rest of the NBA season. Everything will be locked down and all games will be played without fans present.

5. Why: There are two reasons this is happening. The altruistic reason is that the NBA wants to complete this season and to crown a champion. They do not want a blank space on 2020 in the record books.

The other, and probably more real, reason is money. The NBA has already lost around a billion dollars in revenue. To not stage the 2020 NBA Playoffs, would cost the league at least a billion more. That’s not something the teams or players want. Thus, the motivation to get back to playing.

6. How: We know what things are going to look like schedule-wise from the numbers of games, the potential play-in process and then the playoffs. But as the timeline above tells us, this is a pretty tight window to play 88 seeding games, as many as four play-in games and then a full playoffs. Just playing the 88 seeding games over 16 days is 5-6 games per day. And, unlike when teams are scattered all over the country in their own arenas, they are playing in one place, with likely a couple of venues set up as game courts.

So, how do they pull this off? If you’re a basketball junkie, this is going to be heavenly! It’s likely to look a lot like NBA Summer League, which features as many as 10 games a day spread between two venues. This is likely to look the same, including staggered start times. It’ll be a mix between Summer League and the NCAA Tournament. Basically, on the East Coast, you can plop down on the couch in the early afternoon and watch ball straight through to the wee hours of the morning. West Coast? You’re getting basketball with breakfast.

How you’ll see these games is still being determined. Clearly ESPN/ABC will be involved, as will TNT. NBATV will probably have some games as well. As for your local teams on your Regional Sports Network (RSN), they’ll be involved for the seeding games and probably the first round of the playoffs, as per usual. What’s different is that they may not be on location at Walt Disney World. They’re likely to pick up the feed and call games remotely.

Yes, Celtics fans, you’ll probably have Mike and Tommy in your ears calling games again soon!

7. One more “who” here, involves who goes to Walt Disney World for Boston. That’s a little complicated, as traveling parties are expected to be small. The average NBA traveling party ranges from 60-80 people, with a handful more for the playoffs. That’s not going to fly, as keeping numbers lower is imperative to lowering the risk of a coronavirus infection. The rumored number for this endeavor is to cap teams at 35 people.

That means making some tough cuts. For the Celtics, it’ll probably look something like:

·17 players – At this point we don’t know if Two-Way players will go or not. Let’s count them for now.

·7 coaches – This is highly pared down, but the some coaches and the video staff and the like probably have to work fully remotely.

·3 medical staff – This is a combination of team doctors and trainers

·2 PR staff – This could be cut down to one to add a member of the coaching staff

·2 front office – This could also be cut down to one to add a member of the coaching staff

·2 equipment staff – These guys are the unsung heroes of every team and will there

·2 team security – No team travels without a couple of their own security guys

There you have it. 35 pretty quickly. You can maybe finagle some of the numbers to remove somewhere and add somewhere else, but a lot of people are going to have to wear multiple hats while at Walt Disney World.

8. Who Boston is going to play is still being sorted out. The most likely path is that the schedule picks up with the next eight games on the schedule. If you run into a team that isn’t at Walt Disney World, you skip to the next game. This actually works out great and results in only a couple of gaps, but they are easily solved. If this is the way the NBA goes, the Celtics will play:

·Milwaukee Bucks

·Washington Wizards

·Toronto Raptors

·Brooklyn Nets

·Washington Wizards

·Memphis Grizzlies

·Portland Trail Blazers

·Miami Heat

As far as the playoffs go, Boston looks very likely to be the 3-seed in the Eastern Conference. That means the first round opponent is the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers or Philadelphia 76ers. Those teams are all within a couple of games of each other. Still a lot to be decided there.

9. Let’s talk basketball for a minute! A lot has been written about who benefits from the layoff. The take here is that a few Celtics are most likely to benefit from the break.

·Kemba WalkerWalker was clearly dealing with knee soreness and it looked like he would have to be managed the rest of the season. Hopefully the time off got Walker the rest he needed to get the knee right.

·Marcus SmartSmart is always banged up. Not often hurt enough to miss games, but always enough that he’s never fully healthy. With all the Boston asks him to do, it’s good that he’s had this time away from the grind.

·Daniel Theis – Same as Smart. He’s always in the lineup, but because he’s an undersized battler, he’s always playing through bumps and bruises.

·Jaylen BrownBrown had a series of leg and ankle injuries. He just needed time to rest and clearly got that.

10. On the flip-side, some Celtics might not be helped by the downtime. Who could have been most hurt?

·Kemba Walker – The reason Walker shows up on both lists is worry that the knee soreness might not have gone way during the break. Bojan Bogdanovic of the Utah Jazz was playing through a wrist injury at the time of the pause. When he tried to ramp back up, the pain was too much. He ultimately had to have surgery in hopes of not impact the 2020-21 season. That sort of situation is something to keep an eye on with Walker.

·Jayson Tatum – This one is a little unfair. Tatum was so hot that he was incandescent in February and early-March. When a player has it going like Tatum did, the last thing they want is any sort of break. But he was always going to come back to earth to some amount. Let’s all agree to not freak out if Tatum isn’t putting up historic numbers right out of the gate late this summer. Deal? Good!

Basketball is almost back. And we here at CelticsBlog can’t speak for everyone, but we can’t wait!