Fans of the National Basketball Association have probably seen video clips of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s famous “skyhook” shot. Right now, the answer to the question of an NBA return in 2020 is as up in the air as the ball was when Abdul-Jabbar took such a shot.
As of Wednesday, the NBA has announced no definite plans to resume the 2019-20 season. Myriad possibilities exist at this point.
Why the NBA return may look very different from the norm
Little Caesars Arena may have already seen its final Detroit Pistons home game this year. Most of the recently circulated scenarios have the NBA skipping the remainder of its regular-season schedule.
A new possibility has the NBA staging a 16-team tournament in one site to decide the league’s 2019-20 championship. Those sites include Atlantic City, the Bahamas, Las Vegas and Louisville.
There are a lot of uncertainties about that proposal at this point, however. That includes whether it’s feasible at all.
The latest coronavirus-related guidance from the US federal government extended the recommendation to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people through at least April 30. If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extend that guidance further, it could affect the NBA’s designs.
Even if the NBA holds the tournament with no fans in attendance, just the teams on the court would comprise a group of 10 people. That doesn’t take into account broadcast personnel, coaching staffs and officials.
Furthermore, the CDC relaxing its guidelines does not ensure local and state authorities will do the same. The NBA’s desired location for such an event may not be available.
The possibility that the NBA may never resume play for the 2019-20 season exists. At some point, the league can’t resume play because it would push into preparations for the 2020-21 season.
The NBA isn’t completely leaving its fans hanging, however. The league is taking advantage of the power of the internet and the popularity of the Take Two Studio’s “NBA 2K” video game franchise.
The NBA is going virtual to fill the basketball void
ESPN and the NBA have collaborated on an “NBA 2K” tournament that will feature only players in the league. Among them is Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, who is the tourney’s top seed.
No Pistons players are taking part in the tournament. The winner receives $100,000 to donate to his charity of choice.
The tourney will begin on Friday, April 3, at 7 p.m. and continue through Saturday, April 11. ESPN will broadcast all games.
If Michigan casinos were open right now, it’s likely they would take action on the games. Online sportsbooks in other states like New Jersey are doing exactly that.
In terms of the other action normally taking place in Little Caesars Arena this time of year, there is also no good news on Detroit Red Wings games. The NHL and NHLPA reached a deal on escrow payments for the suspended season, which points to both sides not expecting that suspension to end any time soon.
The NHL is going to return 3% of the money players paid into escrow last season. That will help players replace their salaries while games are suspended.
To this point, there has been no public conversation of simulating NHL games using Electronic Arts’ video game franchise for that sport. It’s curious because prior to the pandemic, the NHL was ramping up efforts in that regard.
The NHL has hosted the NHL Gaming World Championship for two years and expressed the desire for all 31 member franchises to participate. Local competitions were part of that plan.
Little Caesars Arena may not see any more basketball or hockey games this year for several months. While that’s in the best interest of everyone’s health and safety, it’s a bummer for Detroit sports fans.