NBA players haven't played competitively since March when the season was shut down due to COVID-19, and despite the long layoff, one former Boston Celtic isn't concerned about the quality of play when the 2019-20 campaign resumes.
The league announced last week a 22-team return plan that includes eight additional regular season games per club, a play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed in both conferences (if necessary) and a normal four-round playoffs using the Best-of-7 format. If everything goes to plan, the regular season would resume July 31, with the playoffs starting a few weeks later in August.
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Given the long period away from the game that these players have gone through, it's fair to wonder whether we'll see quality basketball when the actions picks back up again. Even though the environment might feel like a pickup game due to the lack of fans, NBC Sports Boston Celtics analyst Brian Scalabrine thinks the quality will be great when games resume.
"I think you'll see better basketball," Scalabrine said during Tuesday night's "Arbella Early Edition". "It's not going to feel the same because the fans won't be there, but these guys are going to compete at a high level. Did you watch 'The Last Dance'? You hear about the pickup games between Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson in the Dream Team era, guys can bring it in pickup games. Guys will get in shape. Guys will be able to play, and I think you'll see (the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th guys on the bench) will be a lot better without the crowd. And the superstars will be the same no matter what."
Scalabrine makes a good point. Pickup games get very competitive, and the stakes will be enormously high when the action resumes because so many teams are still fighting for playoff spots and/or seeding. Once the postseason begins, five or six teams will think they have a legitimate chance of winning the Larry O'Brien Trophy as NBA champions, and that scenario should create incredibly competitive basketball.
It might take a little while for some players to get into shape, and the training camp practices and regular season games will definitely help in that regard. But by the time the playoffs commence, these players should be fully ready for the high-intensity postseason atmosphere we've come to expect from the NBA.