By David Mullen
“It’s a tall world after all.”
Walt Disney World in Orlando will be the epicenter of the resumption of the 2019/2020 NBA season in late July after dramatically suspending the season on March 11 with games still in progress after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who mocked the pandemic at a press conference days before, tested positive for COVID-19.
Not every team gets to return for the season. A total of 22 teams will play eight “regular season” games and then be seeded for the playoffs. The Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks remain the choice for the NBA finals as they are the betting darlings in Las Vegas.
And the Dallas Mavericks, with a 40-27 record, are currently the seventh best team in the Western Conference. This season was supposed to be a learning curve. Now, with fewer obstacles and an almost completely healthy roster, the Mavs have the opportunity to move toward the head of the class.
The Mavericks have not formally clinched a playoff spot, but they would virtually have to lose all eight games to get knocked out of the seeds. They could actually move up to a higher seed with a winning streak and some help from other teams.
According to the NBA, the 2019-20 season will officially resume on Friday, July 31 after a handful of exhibition games. Both the league board of governors and the Players’ Association approved the plan, as MLB owners and players continue to squabble and may never reach a resumption agreement.
Under the plan, 16 teams will make the playoffs with eight from each conference. Eight teams have been deemed as non-playoff teams and won’t participate. Thirteen Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams (with the Washington Wizards needing to make up a 5.5 game deficit behind the eight seeded Orlando Magic) will play for the 16 spots and through a best-of-seven series in each round.
The NBA Finals will conclude no later than Monday, Oct. 12, or about the date when under normal circumstances the NBA is preparing for the upcoming season.
But then it gets complicated, if it isn’t already. The possibility of play-in games exists if the ninth-place team below the eighth-place threshold is within four games. But it would take a “Revolution 9,” (Beatles reference), for the ninth team to gain a seed having to win both games of a two-game series against the eighth seed.
Limits on people and families allowed at Walt Disney World are in place. At this time, no fans will be allowed at games. The NBA is considering piping in crowd noises similar to those in the “NBA 2K” video game. That is so Disney. Teams will be sequestered at Walt Disney Resort hotels in Orlando and ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex. I recommend the Classic Burger with Potato Barrels at the ESPN Grill.
For Dallas, star Luke Doncic, now with a healthy ankle, is a huge weapon. But facing double-teams, Doncic must look for scoring help from power forward/center Kristaps Porzingis using his 7-foot, 3-inch frame. Porzingis has to come up big, like his reported $27,285 million annual salary.
With Doncic, Portzingis, Seth Curry, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and local insurance shill Dorian Finney-Smith, the Mavericks can do a lot of damage shooting, both good and bad. If they get hot, watch out. If they are cold, I hope they enjoyed Splash Mountain.
Dallas has a deep and relatively unknown bench, which is a good thing. They can surprise a lot of teams. With stamina a potential issue, the more players that can play, the better. Head coach Rick Carlisle is excellent at juggling the strengths and weaknesses of the roster to claw for a win. And even without center Dwight Powell, out with an Achilles injury, Carlisle can adjust matchups to give his opponents something to think about.
The Mavericks know how to lose close games. Now they need to learn how to win some.
In a season meant for seasoning, chances are that Dallas will not be victory valedictorians. But they can gain valuable learning on their future needs plus graduate to the next class with playoff experience. But if the Mavericks do go far into the upcoming makeshift playoff tournament, they will have earned a lot of extra credit.