In this new feature, we take a look back at the week that was in the NBA!
Hello, and welcome to the inaugural edition of Unpack the Week! This will be weekly feature where I take a look at the previous week in the NBA and highlight some of the Association’s top performers!
What did you think of this week in the NBA? Let me know in the comments! Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back each Monday for more Unpack the Week!
TAKEAWAY OF THE WEEK
The Moment finally arrived this week. I dreaded it, but it was inevitable. COVID-19 took its toll on several NBA rosters this week. A few positive tests and multiple holdouts due to contact tracing decimated a few Eastern Conference rosters and put games in jeopardy. One game was postponed — the league’s second of this young season — and another saw the Philadelphia 76ers playing woefully shorthanded.
Seeing a weekend like the NBA just had can understandably sow doubt into the minds of fans. With Coronavirus cases ramping up in the league, will we see another pause or a second Bubble? Can the season be completed at all under these conditions?
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the league says they have no plans to halt the season. I actually agree with the stance of moving forward despite what transpired. I don’t come to this conclusion out of a callous dismissal of this pandemic. Instead, I simply feel that given what is at stake for players, staff, and the league, this situation is frankly the best it’s going to get for all involved.
The dream scenario would be to entirely postpone NBA operations until the pandemic is over, while teams continue to pay their staff, players, and arena workers. Unfortunately, no North American business that I know of — sports or otherwise — has operated under this setup. So you can defenestrate that idea.
Plan B would be to hold the season, but do so in a Bubble like the one used to complete the 2019-20 season. The league successfully avoided anyone contracting Coronavirus and were able to eventually crown a champion within the contained setting. For that reason, many fans have questioned why the league isn’t already playing this season in a Bubble.
Well, as this Washington Post article indicates, while fans may see the Bubble as the ideal solution, nobody that’s actually involved with the Bubble or its conception want to do another one!
For league governors, it’s expectedly because they don’t want to take on the cost of building another bubble away from their home arenas. For players and coaches, however, the Bubble itself felt isolating and was mentally taxing. While they all love basketball and love to play/coach, being away from family and friends for too long certainly took its toll.
“The owners wanted their arenas back, and the players wanted their lives back,” an anonymous Eastern Conference executive stated in the article.
So both sides of the bargaining table wanted to get the 2020-21 campaign up and running, but didn’t want to do it in a Bubble. This leaves the league literally out in the open: playing in home markets with cross-country travel. I suppose that if MLB and the NFL can muddle their way through a season, why can’t the NBA give it a shot?
Unfortunately, going with this plan is going to lead to what we’re seeing now. More non-competitive games (Christmas was quite a bust) and rosters hampered with players out for COVID reasons in addition to those that sustained regular basketball injuries.
And it’s not for a lack of trying. The NBA did their damndest to put protocols in place to make this season go as smoothly as possible. However, as I’m sure some can attest, you can still catch Coronavirus even when you’re careful and deliberate. But the NBA understands this, and that’s why the season continues to march on.
“The goal isn’t zero positive tests [during the season],” another Eastern Conference executive said in the Post article, “That’s not realistic. The goals are creating safe environments and quickly identifying cases [to prevent uncontrolled spread].”
Ultimately, the NBA’s Catch-22 is result of the failure to contain this virus at the federal level. It’s a failure that has affected all of us. Even as a new administration is set to enter in the coming weeks, our current national government’s handling of this crisis is going to have long-term ramifications on all of our lives. The NBA’s governors, players, and personnel are just another subsection of citizens that have to deal with this.
The net worth of the parties involved in this takeaway may dampen some people’s sympathy for them, but this is still another instance of people having to choose between their health and their livelihood in the face of this pandemic. Much like the rest the country, it feels like the best the league can do is to just keep shuffling along.
TOP PERFORMERS OF THE WEEK
Weekly Total Leaders
|Statistic||NBA Leader||Rookie Leader||Bench Leader|
|Points||Zach LaVine, Bulls (133)||Tyrese Maxey, 76ers (68)||Patty Mills, Spurs (76)|
|Rebounds||Andre Drummond, Cavaliers (67)||LaMelo Ball, Hornets (37)||LaMelo Ball, Hornets (37)|
|Assists||James Harden, Rockets (44)||LaMelo Ball, Hornets (34)||LaMelo Ball, Hornets (34)|
|Steals||Larry Nance Jr., Cavaliers (10)||Patrick Williams, Bulls (7)||Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves (9)|
|Blocks||Myles Turner, Pacers|
Rudy Gobert, Jazz (15)
|James Wiseman, Warriors (5)||Chris Boucher, Raptors (12)|
|3-Pointers||Zach LaVine, Bulls (20)||Saddiq Bey, Pistons (11)||Patty Mills, Spurs (17)|
|Double-Doubles||Andre Drummond, Cavaliers|
Julius Randle, Knicks
Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (4)
|LaMelo Ball, Hornets (2)||LaMelo Ball, Hornets (2)|
|Triple-Doubles||Luka Doncic, Mavericks (2)||LaMelo Ball, Hornets (1)||LaMelo Ball, Hornets (1)|
|Rank||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net Rating|
|1||Toronto Raptors (1-3, 119.2)||Memphis Grizzlies (1-2, 101.4)||Portland Trail Blazers (2-1, 13.7)|
|2||Chicago Bulls (1-3, 119.0)||Portland Trail Blazers (2-1, 103.5)||Dallas Mavericks (3-0, 11.6)|
|3||Portland Trail Blazers (2-1, 117.2)||Dallas Mavericks (3-0, 104.3)||Denver Nuggets (3-1, 9.7)|
|4||Milwaukee Bucks (3-1, 117.1)||Golden State Warriors (3-1, 104.7)||Golden State Warriors (3-1, 8.9)|
|5||Denver Nuggets (3-1, 116.7)||Cleveland Cavaliers (1-3, 105.3)||Miami Heat (2-1, 8.7)|
|26||New York Knicks (2-2, 104.9)||Los Angeles Clippers (2-2, 116.5)||Detroit Pistons (1-3, -6.6)|
|27||Atlanta Hawks (0-3, 103.4)||Washington Wizards (0-3, 117.7)||Atlanta Hawks (0-3, -6.7)|
|28||Orlando Magic (2-2, 103.1)||Toronto Raptors (1-3, 118.6)||Orlando Magic (2-2, -6.8)|
|29||Memphis Grizzlies (1-2, 101.4)||Chicago Bulls (1-3, 121.1)||Cleveland Cavaliers (1-3, -9.0)|
|30||Cleveland Cavaliers (1-3, 96.3)||Sacramento Kings (1-3, 127.1)||Sacramento Kings (1-3, -17.2)|