It has been an eventful week around the NBA. The Mavericks spoke to the media for the first time since their season ended back on August 30th against the Los Angeles Clippers, former MVP Russell Westbrook was traded for the second consecutive offseason, and the league announced the results of their first round of testing for COVID-19 as players and coaching staffs begin to re-enter team facilities around the country.
What do you make the reported results of 48 positive tests throughout the league? Are we perhaps sleeping on the potential for the amount of chaos that could be happening soon while the league tries to make it through a whole season?
Dylan Duell: I think we’re underestimating the impact the virus will have on the NBA season. We’re only a few days into the college basketball season and there have already been games cancelled, including a number one vs. number two matchup between Gonzaga and Baylor on Saturday. This is just different from what the sports of football and baseball have to take on with their much bigger roster sizes. I think the league is going to bite down and swallow hard to get through the season like every other league has, but the glowing reviews and lack of positive tests like there was in the bubble will not be around this time.
Michael Mulford: It’s bound to happen. We’ve seen what happened with the MLB and now throughout the NFL season. Without a bubble, positive tests will occur. Guys will miss games and games as a whole may be rescheduled. It seems to be inevitable and we’ll see how the league fights against it, as Adam Silver and Co. have shown great leadership in tough situations.
Reese Konkle: I think there is a chance of that. As I understand, that’s actually a lower positive percentage that the current national average, so that number should be relatively encouraging. There are undoubtedly going to be some positive tests. And there is likely going to be some schedule-tinkering to accommodate. But the NBA is devoting a lot of resources to this season, more so than any other sports entity, and their success in the bubble lends an amount of credibility to their work. I trust them to get this right.
What do you make of the Russell Westbrook deal? With the uncertainty around the newly-acquired John Wall and of course James Harden, are the Rockets in trouble of falling out of the playoffs in the West?
Dylan: There are just so many bad vibes surrounding the team that it almost seems impossible for them to overcome them with James Harden still on the team. Maybe this could have been kept under wraps and Harden could fake a smile until the team finds a suitable deal, but with the way things leak in the social media age, I just think there is already too much smoke to put out the eventual fire that comes from a Harden deal. Whether it’s for a bunch of solid pieces like a speculated deal with Brooklyn or for another star like potential deal for Ben Simmons in Philly, the Rockets wouldn’t make the playoffs after a midseason Harden deal.
Mulford: It’s a classic NBA2K trade. “The money works so why not?” Both guys could benefit from a new situation so I guess it helped both teams in that manner? I don’t see it moving the needle significantly for either team. But for the Rockets, it seems that James remains unhappy and if that continues, a trade seems likely down the line. In terms of this season, I’d say Houston has fallen out of contention with the playoffs still as a real possibility.
Reese: I think the Rockets are in trouble of falling out of the playoffs for different reasons other than this trade. But that doesn’t change the fact that they swapped out a third team all-NBA performer for a guy who hasn’t played in two years and is coming off several major injuries. Even on his best day, Wall was never a better player than Westbrook, so it’s hard to view this is anything but a step backwards. However, James Harden feels like the ultimate floor-raiser, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can will them into the postseason or if he even wants to.
What stands out the most about the first 37 games of the Mavericks schedule that released on Friday?
Dylan: There are plenty of three-game road trips but never any more than three consecutive road games. They play two consecutive games in Utah in late January. There is a five game homestand in February that includes two games in a row against the Warriors. Not a home-and-home. Just two consecutive home games against the same team. Those are the COVID-influenced things that stand out to me, but of course the general realization that the team could very realistically be 0-3 to start the season unless they head out West with their A game against the Suns, Lakers and Clippers to start the season.
Mulford: To start, opening up on a three-game road against the new look Suns, defending champs, and a first round rematch with the Clippers is a tough go to begin the season, especially without KP. The Mavericks play 13 road games vs 8 home games through January before a home-heavy February. But will the home court advantage be no more without fans?
Reese: It’s not so much about “who” as it is about how difficult the early schedule is. It’s heavy on the road and playoff competition early and they’ll have to do some of it without KP. It’s certainly manageable, but they’re going to need to be somewhat sharp to not dig themselves too deep of a hole. I expect a measured start, but by February this team will have hit their stride.
The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Let’s get to work 🗓#MFFL | @Chime pic.twitter.com/jDZ7wxufxm
— x – Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) December 4, 2020
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