OKC Thunder: NBA update leaves many unanswered questions

OKC Thunder: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks (Photo credit: SEYLLOU/AFP via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks (Photo credit: SEYLLOU/AFP via Getty Images) /

While OKC Thunder basketball and the NBA continue their hiatus the May 1st update offered more questions than answers but hope remains at the forefront.

On March 11th the OKC Thunder and Utah Jazz game was canceled and became the domino that sparked the NBA season suspension. It’s hard to believe that fateful night was only seven weeks ago. On the other hand that date seems like years ago because of what everyone is dealing with in terms of living in a different reality for almost two months.

Throughout this time period, the NBA Commissioner and various committees have monitored the pandemic.  Behind the scenes, they are working diligently to determine not only if the 2019-20 campaign can be saved but more importantly dissecting what that would entail.

It was hoped by May 1st greater clarity would allow for an informed decision but it’s clear there remain numerous hurdles to overcome.

Practice facilities open – for some teams:

With each state (and province) on their own timetable, it adds to the confusion of every dynamic with the shortlist of items to check off. For example, some states are loosening the stay at home restrictions. This prompted the league to allow teams in those states to return to practice facilities although they have to adhere to strict guidelines. A 16-page league memo details the semantics.

For example, no more than four players could be on the site at once, no coaches could be in attendance, a team designated health official must be on-site and the facility would need to be thoroughly cleaned between each session. Teams in these states can begin this process on May 8th.

That in itself opened a can of worms as several teams are still in locations who are restricted to stay at home. Of those, many are among the top teams and that led to players noting the advantage players in non-restricted locations would have by virtue of being able to kick start their physical training. To offset this issue the league is looking for alternative facilities to accommodate all the teams still on lockdown.

The OKC Thunder are among the teams who can return. However, GM Sam Presti stated in his video call with media he isn’t prepared to lift the club’s restrictions yet. Rather, he’ll adopt a wait and see approach to the matter.

NBA Draft timetable shifts:

Two items that did receive clarification are the NBA Draft and NBA Draft Combine have been postponed. It’s expected this part of the association calendar will eventually shift to a timeframe that runs in conjunction with the end of the playoffs.

One caveat is NBA free agency could end up jumping ahead of the draft. That would be one notable benefit from a calendar shift. From a practical standpoint, being able to determine the active player portion of your roster prior to drafting just seems like the smarter way to do business.

In addition, there seems to be a consensus the owners would be amenable to a later start of the 2020-21 campaign in order to complete this season. If the NBA could return by mid to late June this season Bobby Marks of ESPN outlined what a revised schedule might look like moving forward.

Two venues top list:

As for the larger items on the to-do list they include the where and hows of bringing back the players. Venues that would meet the requirements are among those items. The two locations at the top of the prospective locations under consideration are the MGM Grand in Vegas and Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

Both locations feature the immediate checklist items such as multiple courts and housing. While Vegas initially had an edge Orlando would make more sense just strictly based on the lures of being isolated in each respective location.

Testing remains key concern:

In our article two weeks ago we noted testing would be crucial and rapid response kits would also make the process far more feasible. The league is wisely mandating no testing (even now) can be conducted on asymptomatic players. It was also noted while the NBA could facilitate the production of the 15,000 tests Silver is adamant they won’t pursue this option until testing is widely available to meet the needs of each community first.

Related Story. Rapid COVID-19 tests production could be the key to NBA return. light

A concern of a second surge in the positive cases was noted in the Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps ESPN article. This because there are coaches who fall within the high-risk range like Mo Cheeks of the Thunder and the Spurs Gregg Popovich.

Scheduling choices could open can of worms:

The other priority is nailing down how much of the season would be played and what if any tweaks would occur. There are copious options to consider such as whether the league would finish the 15-18 games each team had left to play, opt for a shortened schedule, or a combination of a few games married with a play-in tournament of the bottom seeds.

More from Thunderous Intentions

The decision on this matter also has the potential to open a can of worms especially if the league opted for the play-in tournament. Consider the two to three teams at the top of each Conference who collected the best records in the normal schedule and dealt with injuries to collect that advantage.

Whereas clubs like the Portland Trail Blazers, Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards all have key personnel who were out injured. As of the suspension, the Blazers (3.5 games back with 15 to play) and Wizards (5.5 games back with 18 games to play) specifically were on the outside looking in. In a play-in tournament, both squads with a healthy core would arguably be favored to land a playoff seed. Ask yourself if the Lakers would rather play the Blazers or the Grizzlies.

Or what if the Wizards vaulted to seventh to play the Raptors who navigated an injury-riddled season which seldom had their full core complement on the court.

In each scenario, it could be argued the Lakers, Clippers, Bucks, and Raptors would be the team getting penalized for playing through adversity while the Blazers and Wizards would benefit from this change.

Conversely, jumping from a training camp directly into the postseason would hurt those two clubs. Although the latter scenario would seem fairer since these teams had the same opportunity as the other 28 teams in the season to overcome adversity.

Ultimately there are many hoops left for Adam Silver and his group to jump through before all the checkboxes are filled.

Moving forward, undoubtedly Adam Silver, the committees, and all 30 teams will actively be seeking a way to complete the 2020-21 NBA season and playoffs. Despite the numerous unknowns to reach that point the one certainty is everyone from the fans to the players, owners and associated partners are all desirous for a return to action.

Doing so while making sure community needs are met first and making sure everyone involved is safe remains the key focus.

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