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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 14, 2020
Monday was supposed to give thousands of delirious Raptors fans the chance to relive the happiest memory of their hoops fandom. Golden State was slated to be In Toronto for the first time since last June, when the Raptors set off a huge celebration across Canada by bringing the NBA title north of the border by triumphing in Game 6 in Oakland.
The Warriors never made the trip for the reunion, of course, as North America preps for looming coronavirus-related scenarios that have taken place already around the world. The NBA has been on hold since March 11 and that initial 30-day minimum break provided by commissioner Adam Silver is starting to look like an extremely conservative estimate. Late Sunday, the league had given its 30 teams memos allowing players to head to homes outside of their teams’ markets and extending the stoppage of group practices for an indefinite periods. Reports later emerged that teams are preparing for a significant period without games and perhaps the end of the season entirely.
That’s because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation on Sunday night that no events or gatherings of more than 50 people should take place for the next two months.
That means forget the rest of March, all of April and about half of May.
If that happens, instead of being deep into the playoffs, the NBA would instead be trying to ramp things up to either complete all or part of the regular season or jump right into the playoffs. At his point teams have played between 63 and 67 games.
Those on the higher end have played as many or more than were played in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, which began on Christmas Day and concluded with Miami winning its first championship. But is it possible (and safe, considering injuries went up during the shortened season when games were packed tightly together) to even start everything up again down the line? If they do, there will certainly need to be some sort of abbreviated second training camp (Major League Baseball has reportedly discussed doing this with a second, far briefer, spring training) to help players get back in form.
Players take far better care of themselves these days, but following the 1998-99 NBA lockout a number of them, including all-stars Vin Baker and Shawn Kemp were never the same and could never get back in proper playing shape. But we likely don’t have to think of any of that for a while.
In the meantime, we can reflect on what will likely be lost regardless of what the NBA decides to eventually do.
Besides that lone Warriors trip for Stephen Curry and Canadian Andrew Wiggins, there also won’t be a visit from LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers. That means no ring ceremony for ex-Raptors starter Danny Green. Canadian star Jamal Murray and his second-place Denver Nuggets won’t be in Toronto either (expect cross-conference games to be the most likely casualties if some sort of schedule is resumed).
Toronto won’t travel to Memphis to see Marc Gasol feted for his years of great service with the Grizzlies. And Jonas Valanciunas won’t get the welcoming he deserves at his former home arena either. No ring, no reunion, tough breaks for one of the all-time good guys.
We also might not get any more Toronto-Milwaukee matchups and Vince Carter’s final appearance in the town where his remarkable career got rolling and reached its loftiest heights, originally set for April 10, could now be a no-go. Carter has even hinted that he might just be done regardless of what happens.
Thinking more broadly, Milwaukee’s pursuit of a historic win total and the MVP chase between Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron, which was just getting a bit interesting, are now out the window. Zion Williamson would lose the runway he might need to catch Ja Morant in the rookie of the year race and, more importantly, Williamson’s New Orleans Pelicans would also lose vital chances to try to catch Morant’s Grizzlies for the West’s final playoff spot.
There’s many more angles, but that’s a start.
Right now, everything is about as clear as mud.
If the scenario arises that the NBA’s 2019-20 regular season is over because of coronavirus, Houston’s James Harden will be the league’s scoring leader for the third season in a row. After averaging 36.1 points per game last season, the most by anyone since Michael Jordan’s 37.1 in 1986-87, Harden averaged 34.4 points, which would still be the ninth-most in NBA history since Wilt Chamberlain (who owns most of the scoring records) retired.
Jordan and Chamberlain each won seven scoring titles in a row, George Mikan, Neil Johnston, Bob McAdoo, George Gervin and Kevin Durant are the only others to win the scoring title three years consecutively.
Former Detroit centre Andre Drummond, a potential free agent (whenever free agency happens) who now plays for Cleveland, was set for his own hat trick — consecutive rebounding crowns. He’s the first player to average 15 rebounds a game for four seasons since Dennis Rodman.
Four-time MVP LeBron James was set to lead all in assists (10.6) for the first time in his illustrious career. James, Harden and Russell Westbrook are on the short list of players that have won both a scoring and assist title.
— Ryan Wolstat
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020