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DeMarcus Cousins to Warriors could be the end of competitive balance in the NBA

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USA TODAY

DeMarcus Cousins to Warriors could be the end of competitive balance in the NBA

On Monday, July 2, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweeted out news that made many NBA fans do a double take.

That’s right, DeMarcus Cousins, the four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA team center joined the reigning champion Golden State Warriors. It is yet another in a long list of moves that have NBA fans worried about the state (or lack thereof) of competitive balance in the league.

Cousins is coming off of a crucial torn left Achilles tendon injury, so there is a question of if he can return to his former self. But even if he comes back a quarter of the player he was before, the rest of the league will be hard-pressed to find a way to match the immense amount of talent in Golden State.

Rather than taking a more lucrative offer to stay in New Orleans with superstar and Chicago-native Anthony Davis, Cousins chose to take the taxpayer mid-level exception, which is around $5.3 million. Leaving money on the table does not seem to be a concern to Cousins. He chose to chase a NBA championship while simultaneously setting himself up for a big payday in 2019, should he turn in an All-Star caliber year. But despite all his success, he has a reputation as somewhat of a hot-head and toxic locker room presence, so the most interesting part of this move will be seeing how he fits in with the culture of the Warriors, which is maintained (in part) by head coach Steve Kerr.

The Bulls were out of the free agent market as far as centers were concerned, with recent draftee Wendell Carter Jr. joining a frontcourt rotation that already contains Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis, Cristiano Felicio and Robin Lopez. But this move could eventually have a huge effect on the Bulls, as the NBA commissioner Adam Silver has hinted before that the league seems to be heading closer to 1-through-16 playoff seeding and doing away with conferences.

The gap between the East and the West NBA conferences is now larger than ever. And the league had already began experimenting with the All-Star game format to compensate for the talent gap. It is no doubt that as the Warriors (likely) march towards their fourth title in five years, the NBA postseason could look drastically different, and sooner than later.

Bulls ‘disappointed’ to not participate in NBA return, but respect compromise

Bulls ‘disappointed’ to not participate in NBA return, but respect compromise

As of a ratification by the Board of Governors Thursday and a pending vote by the NBPA Friday, the NBA’s resumption plan is virtually set in stone.

In it, 22 teams will make the trip to Orlando, Fla. to complete a truncated 2019-20 regular season, possible play-in round for each conference’s eighth seed and a 16-team playoff. The Bulls, at 22-43 and paused eight games back of the Orlando Magic for the East’s eighth spot, did not receive an invite.

In statements, Bulls president and COO Michael Reinsdorf and executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas expressed disappointment for not being able to return to action, but understanding of commissioner Adam Silver’s verdict.

“It is disappointing that we will not return to play for the 2019-20 season, but ultimately this decision is about more than just one team. We are supportive of Commissioner Adam Silver and the outcome of the vote by the NBA Board of Governors,” Reinsdorf said in the release. “We thank Adam and his team for their thoughtful work in exploring all available options to come up with a solution that allows the NBA as a league to resume. They spent countless hours having open dialogue with leaders and experts across various industries, as well as team executives, listening and educating themselves to ensure the NBA made the best, safest decision for the league and our players during these unprecedented times.

“We will now shift our focus to continue to build our team under the new leadership of Arturas Karnisovas and our Basketball Operations Department with a focus on the Draft, free agency and offseason development. To our fans and the great city of Chicago: We thank you for your continued support. Keep moving forward with us as we prepare to return to the court for the 2020-21 season.”

Indeed, the focus now shifts to an elongated and unprecedented offseason for the Bulls. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday that the NBA Lottery and Draft will be rescheduled for Aug. 25 and Oct. 15, respectively. Shams Charania of The Athletic pinpointed Oct. 18 as a potential start date for free agency. Those dates are reportedly fluid, but they’ll be ones to monitor for Bulls fans.

Also worth keeping an ear to the ground on will be the new regime’s decision on the future of head coach Jim Boylen with the franchise, as well as restricted free agents Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine, and various others along the basketball operations department and roster.

Karnisovas evidently saw some benefit to the Bulls returning to action from an evaluation perspective, but conveyed understanding for the difficult situation the league currently finds itself in.

“To be included in the plan to restart the 2019-20 season would have been a positive for our players and their development, but we understand the need to compromise and we support the decision made today by the NBA Board of Governors,” Karnisovas said in his statement.  “We are disappointed that our season is over and there won’t be opportunities to see our team or players in game action, but we will be creative in discovering new opportunities to support their growth as we prepare for the next season. Commissioner Adam Silver had the difficult responsibility to develop the best option for the league, and I commend him for the job he has done, particularly given the extraordinary circumstances.”

Karnisovas and new general manager Marc Eversley will reportedly soon head to Chicago. Much of the team is out of market, and there are no games left to be played, but getting under one roof — even for a spell — should only benefit the organization in their quest to “build” under new leadership.

The Bulls' final game of the 2019-20 campaign was a 108-103 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 10. The NBA suspended its season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic March 11.

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NBA 22-team format: When the 2020-21 NBA season begin

NBA 22-team format: When the 2020-21 NBA season begin

The NBA's Board of Governors approved a competitive format to restart 2019-20 season with 22 teams returning to play. The 22 teams returning to play will tentatively start on Friday, July 31.

But what does that mean for the 2020-21 season?

With the NBA Finals slated to end no later than October 12, the season will have to be delayed. Last season began on October 22, 2019.

This year, the NBA Draft is scheduled to take place on Oct. 15.

It's a fluid situation, but the NBA says "the 2020-21 NBA regular season would likely begin on Dec. 1, 2020."

There is still a lot of unknown about the 2020-21 season. Will the NBA try to condense the schedule to get back to a normal timeline for 2021-22? Will the NBA schedule forever be permanently altered?

Another note to keep in mind, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was postponed to 2021, beginning on July 23, 2021. That could put the NBA Finals just a couple of weeks before the Sumer Games begin.

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