Life without the NBA lends credence to renowned philosopher Joni Mitchell’s words, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
We’re over a month into the suspended season and there’s no end in sight. There are obvious ramifications to this, such as the fact that if the playoffs had been going on right now the Kings would have a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the greatest playoff upset since 2016. However, with the season in a mysterious void, the league is going to have to get creative with how they bring back the NBA season if and when such things are possible.
This season was strange before it was suspended. The Golden State Warriors went from contender basement-dweller overnight, the Toronto Raptors lost the reigning MVP and remained one of the best teams in the league, the Cleveland Cavaliers hired and fired a coach, and the league was already shook from the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant, daughter Gigi, and former commissioner David Stern all before the month of February. The suspension of the season was the icing on the cake, and the result of all of this means that it was always going to be a strange season. With all of this in mind, it’s time to do something drastic.
This is not going to be some idiotic post about how we can get the fans into the seats by ensuring they are immune and risking everyone’s lives so we can watch leather fall into a circle lined with string, but rather about the competition itself.
A year without a champion would be the most unprecedented thing the NBA has experienced since the Malice at the Palace. It would impact so many different aspects of the season as a whole. Kings legend Vince Carter will have played his final game with only a makeshift celebration at the Garden. NBA fans would be robbed of seeing another year of LeBron James in the playoffs as he hits the nitro and veers into the impending twilight of his career (assuming he is human). The draft order would be in question, the awards would be incomplete, and incentivized contracts across the league would be put to the test. Because of this, it is hard to see the league allowing the season to end without some sort of closure.
I’ll leave it to the people who are smarter than myself to think of how and where and who will be at my upcoming proposal, but I am putting the competition into my hands. It’s time for the NBA to embrace the fact that it thrives at its most chaotic and do the unthinkable. For years 16 teams have been given an invitation to the NBA playoffs while 14 others stayed at home and watched in disgust. That cannot happen this year. If an English Major’s math is correct, nobody was officially eliminated from playoff contention when the season was suspended and finding a way to compete in 15-20 NBA games when all of this ends would be a chore.
That is why I propose the unthinkable. Like Thomas Edison first flipping the switch on the light or Madam Curie doing whatever it was that she was famous for, I have come up with a revolutionary concept. This concept might not work in a normal season, but it’s the only logical answer to fix a broke NBA season.
30. Team. Playoff.
Those who watch college basketball know that in most conferences, your record means absolutely nothing if you have a good tournament. This means that the worst team in the conference could theoretically win its tournament and get a seat in March Madness. Part of the intrigue of college basketball’s playoff system is because of the possible chaos that this brings. Most of the time, these teams are truly the best, but every once in a while a wildcard school gets in. Go Aggies.
The way I see it, there’s an easy way to go about such a revolutionary, genius, and downright creative idea. Within each conference, the league can essentially recreate the standard 16-team NBA playoff bracket based on the records at the time of the suspension on each side. The lone difference would be a first-round bye for each one-seed. This means that the Lakers and Bucks would sit out the first round and await the winners of the matchup between each conference’s seventh and eighth seeds (Nets/Magic and Mavericks/Grizzlies).
Who isn’t chomping at the bits to see the Los Angeles Clippers take on Andrew Wiggins and the Golden State Warriors or watch the defending-champion Toronto Raptors fight their former rivals, the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round? What better way to truly open up a championship without an asterisk than giving every team an equal shot at winning the title?
This might seem like a giant overhaul of the playoff system as it currently stands, but it would only require an extra round. The way I see it, the best way to make this round intriguing is by making it a single-game matchup. This not only takes away the stress of a three, five, or seven-game series but makes the odds of a first-round upset much higher. From there, I see a three-game second and third-round, a five-game conference final, and a seven-game NBA Finals.
This not only allows for a shortened playoff-schedule, but it still preserves the intrigue of a normal Finals matchup without killing the players along the way. So, where do the Kings land in all of this? Well, let me set this up for you.
Do you remember December? For those who are not in the know, December was a month where many people celebrated holidays because they were able to leave their houses without dying. This past December, the Sacramento Kings took on the Houston Rockets in a thrilling basketball game that ended when a man named Nemanja Bjelica hit a game-winning three-pointer and coined the classic phrase, “F&$% it, we deserve this win.”
What if I told you that you could get a one-game rematch of that game in the playoffs, where James Harden often turns into Shames Soften and Mike D’Antoni can’t coach himself out of a paper bag? Do the Kings have these same problems and then some? Sure. But the potential of a Kings and Rockets first-round matchup has the chance to be memorable-- if not for the wrong reasons.
Nothing about this season is going to seem normal if it is able to reach a satisfying ending. Already struggling with ratings drops, what better way to combat this than do something truly unique and memorable. A tournament such as this would not work in a typical NBA season, but given everything the league, its personnel, and the fans have gone through this season, a radical idea such as this is the most fitting way to end the season.
Hopefully, it will only be a few months until the greater concerns of COVID-19 have subsided and we are back watching games in some form or another. We can all get back to our rituals of screaming bad takes into the internet’s megaphone, complaining about 16-years worth of failure, and come together in this irrational interest we have. To give all thirty teams a reason to be excited after this, however, would help make this potentially-lost season an easier pill to swallow, and it’s time for the league to do something drastic and fix it.