COVID-19 and the NBA: How Teams Will Have to Adapt to Pandemic Play Outside the Bubble

The NBA is back… again. Professional basketball is starting up what will be one of the strangest seasons in NBA history. The only other season that could be in that argument is the one that ended only months ago. This will be the first time two basketball seasons will take place within the same time as a football season.

Lineups

One thing to look out for as early as this preseason will be line-up changes. Usually teams work through their training camps and practices to develop solid line ups and game plans. For this season off seasons, training camps, and practice times were all cut short to get things back on schedule. This will be a test to see who can think on their feet the best. Additionally if that wasn’t enough of a challenge already, coaches will have the unpredictable struggle of dealing with covid infected players having to sit out and quarantine. This means rookies, and what would be g-league players, may see more minutes than normal. Expect coaches to experiment early on this year to get everyone they can in playing shape.

Travel

Travel is always a factor when it comes to the NBA. Teams often have to prepare for the fatigue of late nights, back to backs, and long road trips. This years’ schedule is different and could prove to be either advantageous or additionally difficult. 

Teams will still be traveling but the league has implemented a system to reduce infection risk. Teams will stay in cities longer and play those home teams more than once, similar to how baseball does things. This is good for players as it can provide more rest time. This also benefits teams that use the extra time to better learn their opponents. Conversely, this may prove to have the reverse effect for less adaptive teams like the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are a regular season juggernaut because their style of play is unstoppable against new teams in the daily grind of the season. As other contenders have a chance to see the Bucks on multiple occasions, coaches and players can mold new game plans. Don’t be surprised to see the bucks split wins against some of the better coached teams. 

72 Games

With less time for a regular season and the NBA wanting things to still finish on schedule for the 2022 season, the league is implementing a 72 game season. A shorter season is something the league has talked about for years and many fans and teams are in favor of it. Teams will play everyone in their conference three times and everyone in the other conference twice, basically eliminating divisions, which were all but irrelevant anyway. Less games means less time to catch up. It may only be ten less games but that’s ten less potential wins, but when seeding can be separated by 10% of a win percentage every game counts. 

Play-In Tournament

This isn’t exactly because of covid but is an implementation because of last year, which was due to covid. The league will allow for the 9 and 10 seeds to compete for a playoff appearance once again. This is something that went over very well in the bubble but there are still some naysayers. At any rate it keeps things interesting and gives teams that may have been affected by injuries early to catch up and make a run, such as the Portland Trail Blazers did last year. 

Overall this season will be won or lost based on luck and malleability, expect anything to happen.

(Photo: Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports)

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