The NBA’s return-to-play proposal was approved by team owners Thursday, putting the wheels in motion for 22 teams to finish out the regular season in Orlando beginning July 31.
Although fans, players and owners alike will all be excited to see the NBA return in some form more than four months after the season was put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak, the structure of the salvaged season and health protocols surrounding it will each present their own sets of challenges for players to overcome.
Fourteen-year NBA veteran and NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards color commentator Drew Gooden appeared on Lunch Talk Live with Mike Tirico on Friday to discuss the approved format. His first reaction was similar to that of many: excitement for basketball to start back up again.
“As a player, I’m excited especially if I’m with the Wizards,” Gooden said. “Losing John Wall beginning of the season and Bradley Beal had a great season with an All-Star snub. Hopefully he will be an All-NBA player. This is the second season. They are having second life.”
However, Gooden admitted that it’s going to be challenging to start back up again after months of inactivity. For two teams, however, there are a set of mental hurdles to overcome as well.
“As a fan you’ve got to be happy with the structure,” Gooden said. “I think it’s a great situation. The season was on the brink of being canceled. As a player it’s tough. It depends on which situation you’re in as a player and what team you’re on…With winning teams it’s easy to stay in shape because you have the eyes on the prize.
“The Wizards and Portland [Trail Blazers] have it tough because of having to stay in shape. The uncertainty of the outcome of the regular season. As a player you can have three mindsets: in the playoffs on the cusp of the playoffs or out of the playoffs. That’s how you have to take on and train and prepare for these games.”
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The eight teams that didn’t make the cut for Orlando already have their lottery odds locked in, while the Wizards, who currently have the ninth-best odds, cannot improve their chances of landing a top pick. The Trail Blazers were the lone team to vote against the 22-team proposal, reportedly citing “more competitive and innovative formats on the table.”
But the plan is set and 22 teams will have to start training again in order to prepare for the July 31 start date. With everyone playing in a healthy-conscious neutral setting, things are going to feel very different than normal for the players involved.
“There’s no easy way to cut it,” Gooden said. “If you want the season to continue you can’t be picky. I think this setup is going to be great. Partnering with Walt Disney and having a place to stay with your family outside of the team hotel is great. There will be a lot of protocol on the maintenance in care of the players. To protect them and the staff. It’s not just the players but the personnel around the players. The biggest thing is the safety of players and people that work around the NBA and media personnel.”
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