August 17, 2020, 12:24 am
It’s the third Sunday in August and I’m writing a Daily Dish about the last weekend without PLAYOFF BASKETBALL. I suppose stranger things have happened but I’d have to be waiting for a teleportation device, alien invaders, or a marsupial with wings for something to top a professional basketball league resuming its season inside the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the middle of a global pandemic that has infected over 21 million people around the world.
I refuse to call of this the “new normal” since that expression makes no goddamn sense but I suppose I should just trudge forward in these strange times and lean into some bizarro basketball and recap a few things along the way. You might even pick up a hoops tidbit and a heartly chuckle along the way.
Come inside, it’s fun inside.
Brent Rambo Players of the Night
Adam Silver, Commissioner, NBA – 22 teams, eight games each, one Bubble, one funded saliva test, zero COVID-19 cases
There are no games so no players to dap up but I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the Commissioner for putting together the NBA Bubble along with the league’s owners and players. In a country starved for sports, Silver not only got the NBA back on the court, he created the model for how to ensure sports can be played safely for everyone involved in the middle of a pandemic. With Silver’s leadership, there was a very clear plan about how everyone would travel and quarantine within the bubble and how everyone would need to adhere to the rules and protocols or risk significant punishment.
If that wasn’t enough, we learned over the weekend through Zach Lowe and ESPN that behind the scenes, the NBA funded research to develop a saliva-based test for the coronavirus with Yale University that was granted emergency authorization from the FDA. The test that was developed should, in time, become more affordable for the general public to lower the amount of time between tests taken and results provided. In the absence of a national testing strategy, Silver and the NBA have come in and developed one of their own.
Not all of it was perfect. There were some mishaps with the available meals early on and there were still some protocol violators. It is still a strain on everyone within the Bubble to not be around friends and family for a lengthy amount of time. But at the end of the day the league got back to doing what it does best and we were able to enjoy professional basketball once again. All that is in large part due to Silver’s leadership. Contrast that with the MLB and NFL continuing to report of positive cases and the NCAA rapidly losing its football season and the NBA, along with the NHL and MLS, look like the only sports entities capable of adapting under difficult circumstances.
I was brazenly skeptical of this being successful (so far) but I’m very happy to have been wrong. The games were fun, the season feels revived, everyone remains safe and the playoffs are on the horizon. As much as we all want to go back to normal and forget the last several months, Adam Silver gave us the next best thing. He gave the league and all of its fans a way forward until that time comes.
LeBron Yelling at J.R. Player of the Night
Normally this space is reserved for a player I want to yell at but since there aren’t any active games, I want to be annoyed about something else. And that is the play-in game, for which my chief complaint is WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL OF MY LIFE?
I absolutely loved the Grizzlies/Blazers showdown and hope we get more of them. Those two teams fought to the bitter end to make the playoffs and shouldn’t that be everything we hope out of the regular season? Don’t you just get tired of teams phoning it in when there isn’t anything on the line and seeds have been determined?
Well what if we did that beyond just the 8th and 9th seeds? Why stop there? Why not do 7 and 10 as well if they finish less than four games apart in the standings? You can keep it so that the lower seeds have to win two in a row. Makes complete sense to me. But these games would be war and it would force anywhere from eight to maybe 12 teams to have to play competitively up until the very end of the season. If we could add more intrigue to the season, get more teams some national exposure, and make the last few games far more meaningful, wouldn’t that be a win-win for everyone?
The Bubble gave the league the perfect opportunity to experiment and based on the battle that came for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs, the league may have stumbled onto something that could boost interest even further.
The Draymond on Steven Adams Report
Any injury that happens during the playoffs is going to be a kick in the nards for those of us who have horses still in this race. For those of you reading and wondering if any of your team’s players are on here, I hope you’re wearing a cup.
We begin with some happy news that Mike Conley gets to welcome his new baby son into the world. We wish the Conley family nothing but the best with their new bundle of joy. But because we’re not playing basketball under normal circumstances, this required Conley to leave the Orlando bubble and he is likely going to miss the first few games of the Jazz’s series against the Nuggets since he will have to re-enter quarantine upon his return. Conley was beginning to put his rough first season with the Jazz behind him with his play in the bubble so the Jazz will need to hope Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson can pack enough scoring punch to hold off the Nuggets as they wait his return.
In other significant playoff injury groin kicks, Russell Westbrook has been ruled out of the Rockets’ playoff-opener against the Thunder. It’s hard to have the fireworks of a Russ/CP3 revenge series without Russ involved and it doesn’t sound very promising that Westbrook will get clearance from his quad strain any time soon.
Speaking of revenge, T.J. Warren is dealing with plantar fasciitis but that didn’t hold him out of practice and it’s unlikely to keep him out of a playoff showdown with his nemesis Jimmy Butler.
Derrick Jones Jr. did not practice for the Heat on Sunday but considering how scary his neck injury was, it’s nothing short of remarkable that he’s still potentially available for Game 1 against the Pacers.
Glenn Robinson III will miss at least a week with an oblique strain, putting another dent in the Sixers’ playoff depth.
Danuel House has a toe sprain but was able to go through Rockets practice on Sunday.
Both Gary Harris and Will Barton have been ruled out for the Nuggets ahead of Game 1 against the Jazz. Neither player has been able to suit up in the bubble and the early rule-out means they likely aren’t close to returning either.
Ed Davis has been ruled out of the entire first round for the Jazz and if any one of you degenerates were looking for a rebounding streamer for these playoffs, I guess you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Rajon Rondo is in the process of clearing quarantine and working his way back from a broken thumb. The Lakers will probably take their time working him back into the rotation but the Lakers backcourt could certainly use his presence.
Jamal Crawford has been ruled out of Monday’s Game 1 with a hamstring strain and as a fellow 40-year-old I too may call out of work on Monday as well since I’m feeling a little hobbled by taking out the trash.
The Raptors appear to be getting healthy in time for their showdown with the Nets. Both Serge Ibaka and OG Anunoby were dealing with knee issues but both seemingly got enough rest to clear them for Game 1 against Brooklyn.
The Clippers may be getting some reinforcements back in time for the postseason as well. Montrezl Harrell should clear quarantine and might get a few minutes off the bench in his first action inside the bubble.
Pat Beverley is questionable after missing the last five games with a calf injury and I’m sure he’d love nothing more than to be a thorn in the side of Luka Doncic.
Landry Shamet is also questionable for the Clips but that might not be as daunting with Reggie Jackson getting some significant guard minutes during bubble play and with Lou Williams also ramping up his activity.
Finally, Kristaps Porzingis is listed as probable to begin the series against the Clippers and given that the Mavs kept him out late in the resumption period, he should be all systems go for his first taste of the playoffs. Enjoy the show with some popcorn and a tall glass of your tears to wash it all down, Knicks fans.
Call Me Nostra-Dumbass
Like many of you, I have access to a keyboard and terrible opinions so while Panda and Bruski still allow me the space, you, dear reader, get to have free access to my inane ramblings and equally inane playoff predictions. Since these predictions are completely free, you have every right to roll your eyes at each of these when you plan on betting each series. Except for when they turn out to be completely right, that’s when you owe me 50% of your betting wins. Fair is fair.
Here are one very tired old man’s playoff predictions:
Eastern Conference 1st Round
Bucks (1) vs. Magic (8) – Bucks in 4
An injury-ravaged Magic team gives Giannis and co. the perfect opportunity to tune up.
Raptors (2) vs. Nets (7) – Raptors in 5 (STFU PANDA!)
The Nets could steal one early but the Raps have the bodies and the experience to will to shut down Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.
Celtics (3) vs. Sixers (6) – Celtics in 5
The Sixers have looked far from ready for the limelight and without Ben Simmons around, the Celtics will be happy to send them home with an offseason full of questions.
Heat (4) vs. Pacers (5) – Heat in 7
Focus will be on Butler vs. Warren but the Bam vs. Turner matchup probably dictates how this series will go. Lots of opportunities for players like Brogdon, Dipo, D-Rob, and Herro to go off.
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Bucks (1) vs. Heat (4) – Bucks in 7
Bam gives Giannis all he can handle but Bledsoe is no match for rookie Kendrick Nunn or veteran Goran Dragic.
Raptors (2) vs. Celtics (3) – Celtics in 7
This has all the makings of a classic and the defending champs are in for a fight. Tatum winds up being the best player on the floor and carrying the C’s over the finish line.
Eastern Conference Finals
Bucks (1) vs. Celtics (3) – Bucks in 6
As we’ve seen all season, once Giannis gets going and asserts his will, he’s almost impossible to stop. The Bucks don’t allow a repeat of last season’s playoff let down.
Western Conference 1st Round
Lakers (1) vs. Trail Blazers (8) – Lakers in 7
LeBron has been through enough team drama and poor play before to will far less-talented teams to deep playoff runs. Dame will continue to shine but James gets the last laugh.
Clippers (2) vs. Mavericks (7) – Clippers in 5
Congrats on making the playoff Luka, now enjoy the gauntlet of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Pat Beverley.
Nuggets (3) vs. Jazz (6) – Nuggets in 6
Both teams are banged up and had bubble struggles but the Nuggets can overcome the loss of Harris and Barton. The Jazz will miss Conley and Bogdanovic more.
Rockets (4) vs. Thunder (5) – Thunder in 7
A healthy Russ changes this prediction but since he’s not, this story ends with CP3 getting the Twitter praise (and scorn) that he so rightly deserves.
Western Conference Semifinals
Lakers (1) vs. Thunder (5) – Lakers in 5
The Thunder have been a Cinderella story all season. Anthony Davis sure does like pumpkins.
Clippers (2) vs. Nuggets (3) – Clippers in 5
A motivated Montrezl Harrell gives Jokic hell on both ends of the court. Leonard makes Porter look very much like a rookie in over his head.
Western Conference Finals
Lakers (1) vs. Clippers (2) – Clippers in 7
It’s the Battle of Los Angeles that we all wanted from the get-go. The mismatch of the Clippers bench vs. the Lakers bench is apparent all through the series and Kawhi gets the best of the King.
Bucks (1) vs. Clippers (2) – Clippers in 6
Rejoice Frankie Muniz. Your time has finally come.
Enjoy the NBA Playoffs my fellow Hoop-Ballers!