Like everybody else, I couldn't wait for the NBA to come back, but now, it's kinda' weird. I don't mind the empty arenas so much. I'm just confused by the system the League put in place to "finish" the regular season. I thought that it would have been better to just go into the playoffs. How exciting would that have been, especially if they had done the best-of-three or best-of-five they were talking about? However, NBA Commissioner Silver (who does indeed look like he comes from the future) added these extra games to milk TV contracts, give playoff teams some warm-up games, and maybe get some excitement going over the final playoff spot in the West.
As it turns out, there could be crazy excitement in the West. The Memphis Grizzles currently hold the eighth spot, but they're hanging on by their fingernails. Right now, the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, Suns, Sacramento Kings(!!), San Antonio Spurs, and New Orleans Pelicans are all within 2 1/2 games of each other. The teams that finish 8th and 9th will have this weird play-in series. (More on that later.)
Right now, it's Grizzlies in 8th, then:
Portland 1/2 game back
Suns 2 games back
Spurs 2 games back
Kings 2 1/2 games back
Pelicans 2 1/2 games back
The Grizzles are in free fall. They haven't won a game in the bubble and their four remaining games are against a good Thunder team and the top three teams in the East (Bucks, Celtics, and Raptors). They're toast. Meanwhile, the Suns have won all four of their games in Orlando and are playing some ball. The three-man game of Devin Booker, Ricky Rubio and DeAndre Ayton is no joke. Ayton is averaging 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in the bubble.
The Pelicans have the easiest remaining schedule (Wizards, Spurs, Kings, Magic). The Suns have the Heat, Thunder, 76ers, and Mavs. The Spurs are in trouble. They have two games with the Jazz, plus games with the Pelicans and the Rockets. If San Antonio doesn't make the playoffs, it will be the first time THIS CENTURY that that happened. That Popovich guy is pretty good.
So, we'll assume that Portland (which has Clippers, 76ers, Mavs, Nets) finishes eighth. They could win all four games because the Clippers are only 2-2, although their two losses are by two points each to the Lakers and the Suns. And, just for fun, let's say that the Suns finish 9th. Then, and this is way weird, the Trail Blazers and Suns would have a play-in series. It would be a best-of-three, but the Blazers would start with a one-game lead. So Portland would just have to win one of the two games played, while Phoenix would have to win both. That could be exciting. The winner of that would then face the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
As for the Tucson basketball League, things are again heading in the right direction. All of the major indices (hospitalizations, cases, deaths) have been trending downward for a while, but we (as a state) still have a long way to go. I'm not super-confident that we won't start backsliding again when Ducey reopens things. There will always be that selfish few who don't understand that freedom and responsibility go hand-in-hand.
This will be the 20th straight Sunday that we will be off. It sucks. We usually only have seven Sundays off in an entire year (Mother's Day, MLK Sunday, Christmas and New Year's weeks, and a Sunday off in between seasons).
I've seen a few League players at grocery stores and they all tell me how much they miss playing. I promise you all that when we get back at it, it's going to be incredibly special.