It’s still almost surreal. March without March Madness. No NBA. No sports period.
The sports world has come to a complete halt due to the worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19, aka the coronavirus.
Lockdowns around the world have commenced and with them comes an uneasiness about the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season. Will the league finish its campaign and, if so, how?
Here’s 5 scenarios how it could all play out; that is if cancelling the season entirely doesn’t happen.
Scenario 1 – Begin Playoffs
End the regular season immediately so that postseason play can begin.
Most teams played 65 games anyway, which is plenty to determine the Top 8 in each conference. The playoffs would run as they do normally. All series are best-of-seven.
This would be great if the NBA can get back to playing sooner rather than later.
Scenario 2 – Play Entire Regular Season
It would be a monumental task, but it could be done.
With roughly 17 games remaining in the regular season, teams simply finish it out. Then, the playoffs begin. The problem in this scenario, of course, is time.
First Take debates the importance of the NBA finishing the regular season
If the NBA cannot resume playing until sometime in the summer, playing the remainder of the regular season and then the entire postseason could take the league right up until the beginning of the 2020-21 season, which begins in October.
How about this? Since the NCAA tournament was cancelled, let’s finish the NBA season with its own tournament.
Each conference holds a 15 team, single-elimination tournament to determine its champion.
We’ll declare the regular season over and give first-round byes to the top seed in each conference – Milwaukee in the East and the Los Angeles Lakers in the West.
The remaining 14 teams in each conference play in the following fashion. No. 2 faces No. 15. No. 3 plays No. 14, and so on. It’s similar to play within a region in the NCAA tournament.
When the winners of each conference tournament are determined, they play the top seed in a best-of-five series to determine the conference champ. The conference champs play a best-of-seven series for the Championship.
This scenario makes a ton of sense if the league is pressed for time. The single-elimination part of the tournament could finish within two weeks and the conference and NBA Finals could be done in 2 weeks.
Scenario 4 – The Play-In Tourney
Since we are calling the end of the NBA regular season, we have to give the bottom seven teams in each conference a shot. To do so, we have a play-in tournament.
The 15th-place team plays the 14th-place team. In the West, that would be Golden State facing Minnesota. The winner plays No. 13, Phoenix. The winner of that game plays No. 12 San Antonio.
That winner plays No. 11 Sacramento and the winner of that game plays tenth-place New Orleans. The winner would become the No. 10 seed. Portland would advance to the next round as the No. 9 seed. The remaining 10 teams in each conference would play a 10-team single elimination tournament to determine its champion.
The two conference champions then meet for the NBA title. The idea would be to give an advantage to the teams that placed higher during the regular season. It may take a bit longer than the NBA Tournament, but if the league had the time…
Scenario 5 – Coach Rick’s Are You Kidding Me Plan
Okay. So…last ditch effort. The NBA needs an ending to its 2019-20 season. They call in….none other than Coach Rick.
(Note:Coach Rick did coach an eighth grade basketball team to a 15-3 record by clearly violating all league rules related to not using a full-court press the entire game.)
First, the regular season is over. The only teams involved in Coach Rick’s Glorious Postseason Plan are those that won at least 40 games. Seriously, if you haven’t won 40 of 60-plus games, you just don’t belong.
With the end of the regular season, seven teams from the West and four teams from the East are in. For all the Philly fans of the world…guess what? Your Sixers probably shouldn’t have gone 3-7 from Dec. 15 to Jan. 3 and then lost four of their last seven before the end of the season. Too bad. You’re out.
How About a Game of 21?
The top two finishers in each conference receive a bye. The remaining seven teams then compete in the “21” round.
Each team would select one player to play in a massive game of 21. In 21, players compete against each to score 21 points. All normal rules apply. Players can hit 3-pointers from behind the arc. Any player fouled maintains possession of the ball.
On all made baskets, a player is entitled to shoot free throws. Players can make a maximum of three free throws and then once again retain possession of the ball. When the first player scores 21 points, the game ends.
The top four scoring teams in the game of 21 advance to the next round. If there is a tie, the team with the better record advances. If still tied, head-to-head play is the next tiebreaker. If that still has not broken the tie, flip a coin. We don’t have all day.
Since the Bucks finished with the best record in the NBA, they will get the team from the 21 Round with the lowest score. The next lowest score goes to play the Lakers. Next faces Toronto and the remaining team plays the Clippers.
These “conference” semifinals will be a best-of-three, all played at a neutral site on three consecutive nights. The two winners face each other in the “conference” finals. That round is also best of three.
The finalists then play a regular best-of-seven series to determine the 2019-20 NBA champion.
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.