The NBA wants to salvage its suspended season, but the potential of a champion not being crowned may eventually become a reality.
Game-play and practice facilities remain shut down nearly three weeks after the NBA suspended its season. At least 10 players in the league have tested positive for coronavirus in that span, and while Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell have been cleared of COVID-19, many hurdles still exist for teams to compete again.
If the NBA season is resumed, questions remain on whether the regular season will be completed, if the playoff structure will be altered and if fans would be in attendance. There is hope amongst team personnel that the season will go on, including from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who believes that games can begin as soon as mid-May. Still, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has yet to offer teams tentative estimates on a return to play this year, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
If the 2019–20 season were to be completed, factors ranging from revenue to record books will be impacted. The NBA has experienced shortened seasons due to player lockouts, but the coronavirus pandemic provides complicated variables in terms of when it can be safe for groups to gather again.
The uncertainty puts the completion of the year up in the air, along with landmark performances that may not amount to a chance at the Larry O’Brien trophy. These are a few storylines from 2019–20 that would fall by the wayside if the season is ultimately canceled.
Bucks Missing History
The Milwaukee Bucks’ dominant season may end on a three-game losing streak. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s minor left knee injury kept him out of the team’s last two games, where it lost to the Suns and Nuggets and recorded its first losing streak of the season.
Prior to that stretch, Milwaukee was on track to record the third 70-win season in NBA history. It was a year powered by reigning MVP Antetokounmpo, who led the team’s league-leading defense and margin of victory (+11.3).
If the season were to end, the Bucks would fall short of competing for its first Eastern Conference title since 1974 and first championship since 1971. The team would have been well prepared to have a chance at history if the season continued as scheduled.
Antetokounmpo will likely win MVP, canceled season or not, but a year at his peak would go to waste in what could be a short timeframe for the Bucks to win a championship. After 2019–20, Antetokounmpo has one year left on his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He has spent his entire NBA career in Milwaukee but may opt for new scenery depending on the outcome of this season and 2020–21.
The Bucks may retain many of its players next year for another chance at a title, but the potential of this season for a franchise that has long sought success may never be realized.
Lakers’ Season of Destiny in Flux
An emotional season for the Los Angeles Lakers may go without closure.
The loss of Kobe Bryant brought sorrow to Los Angeles, but also helped provide motivation for a Lakers team that has largely sat atop the Western Conference this season. After missing the playoffs last year, the combination of LeBron James and Anthony Davis have powered a strong roster that has proven it has the weapons to compete.
With the team well-equipped, some saw the death of Bryant as a source of inspiration to bring the Lakers back to the top of the NBA. It has been 10 years since the team won a division or championship title, when it was under Bryant’s leadership.
The day before Bryant’s death, James passed the Lakers legend in all-time points scored. In his last posts to social media, Bryant told James to “keep growing the game and charting the path for the next.” In the Lakers’ first game back, James told the crowd that he and the team would continue to carry the torch of Bryant’s legacy.
To complete that legacy, James would need to continue his landmark Year 17 and lead his team to a championship. In the Lakers’ final games before the season’s suspension, the team showed its potential to do so by defeating top competition in the Bucks and Clippers.
A 17th franchise trophy is within the Lakers’ grasp and would put a fitting cap on an emotional year. Time will tell if the team will be given the chance to play for it.
Warriors’ League-Worst Season Passes
The Warriors followed five straight trips to the NBA Finals with what may end up as a 15-win season.
Injuries got the best of Golden State in 2019–20, with Klay Thompson out for the season in ACL recovery and Stephen Curry missing four months with a broken hand. The team has struggled offensively, ranking last in the league in offensive rating (104.4) and margin of victory (-8.7).
While some NBA fans may have been eager to see the Warriors falter, a cancellation of the season would render the year as an anomaly in the scheme of the team’s recent history.
With the Warriors out of the competitive picture, another team was set to represent the West in the Finals in 2019–20. What had become routine for the Warriors became an intriguing battle of Los Angeles teams and close competition.
If this NBA season is canceled, the Warriors will be eager to look ahead to 2020–21. Beyond Golden State getting its top stars back to full health, the team has a protected top-20 first-round pick in the draft.
A return to form for Golden State may not be far away, and under Steve Kerr’s leadership, the Warriors may quickly go back to a competitive presence in the West. A canceled 2019–20 season would quicken the team’s return to relevance and potentially shorten the opportunity for another team to take the Western crown.
Vince Carter’s Last Hurrah
Vince Carter was by no means hosting a farewell tour for his 22nd and final NBA season, but nostalgia was felt in each game nonetheless.
By playing in 2019–20, Carter was making his final mark on the NBA by setting the record for most active seasons by a player in league history. He was not putting up large numbers or helping a contender, but fans treasured one last season from the NBA stalwart.
The abrupt halt to the season caused by the coronavirus pandemic was felt heavily by Carter. What started as a game between the Hawks and Knicks on March 11 quickly turned into potentially the last game of Carter’s career.
As word started to spread of the season’s suspension, the reality of the NBA’s uncertain future started to set in. In response, the Knicks allowed Carter to shoot what may become the final shot of his career—a three-pointer in overtime.
It was a meaningful moment, made more emotional by Carter’s post-game reflections.
The NBA season may resume, but the regular season may not. If games go straight into postseason play, that contest will go down as Carter’s last with very little warning.
If the season is canceled, fans will be robbed of seeing Carter for just a few more moments—and of a proper goodbye. But if that really was it for Half-Man, Half-Amazing, it was great to see him have at least one more standout moment in his storied career.