These are bizarre times for all sports both here in Australia and around the world.
While the AFL is a bit like a uni student without any money, shifting from place to place, the NBA has gone the ‘bubble route’ with 22 contending teams based in Orlando, Florida for a quick ‘re-started’ season and a post-season tournament.
The ‘regular’ (nothing regular about it) season begins tomorrow with two games: Utah Jazz v New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers.
Each week in Starting 5, we’ll have five (makes sense, right?) storylines to keep an eye on as this unique season progresses.
1. TGIB (Thank God It’s Back)
First of all, putting everything else to one side – if you can – pure and simply, it’s great to have the NBA back. Every time a sport returns, even if in an altered form, it’s a return to some sort of normality.
Will this be a typical NBA season? Of course not. Are we happy to have LeBron, Ben Simmons and the Greek Freak back in our lives? Hell yeah. Just seeing some NBA highlights back on our social media feeds has already been good for the soul.
So the NBA's inviting 22 teams to Orlando: 13 Western Conference, 9 Eastern Conference. Eight-regular season games per team. Play-in for the 8th seeds. July 31-October 12. Vote tomorrow to ratify.
The NBA's back.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 3, 2020
2. Strange Days Have Found Us
Even with all the enthusiasm of a re-started NBA, we can’t discount the fact that we don’t really know what we’re getting into. Some NBA players have chosen not to go to Orlando and others may yet decide to leave. It’s a moveable feast. Major League Baseball has suddenly seen its plans altered by a number of positive tests.
It’s also difficult to predict how the on-court action will play out. The English Premier League saw teams previously on a high – Everton, Sheffield United – fail to adjust to life after the re-start. Will that happen to NBA teams? There’s no doubt some will handle “bubble life” better than others.
No way Bron eating this LOL https://t.co/mGWgPBbS6S
— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) July 8, 2020
3. Simmons Shoots…Scores
Australia’s best-known player continues to feature heavily on social media, both his and others. Simmons and his Philadelphia 76ers are both prolific on Twitter and we’ve seen plenty of evidence that not only is he adding some bulk to his frame, but he’s even developing – gasp – a long-range jump shot.
Ain't this what they've been waitin' for? pic.twitter.com/Ff16rzfX6K
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) July 24, 2020
4. Surprise, Surprise
Anytime you get a bizarro season like this, you’re bound to get some surprises. While we don’t yet know which team or which players are going to have breakout ‘mini seasons,’ the hype is already starting to build around Bol Bol, the 7’2″ son of late NBA star Manute Bol who has dazzled in his Orlando scrimmages.
pre-sale tickets for the Bol Bol bandwagon are now sold out, if you're still interested there will be information on general admission seating soon.
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) July 22, 2020
5. The Odds Couple
The Bucks ($3.40) and Lakers ($3.60) are currently favoured to win the title, with the Clippers ($4.20) the only other team in single figures.
It’s a huge jump from there to the Rockets ($18), Celtics ($19) and the Sixers and Raptors, both at $21.
There is an intriguing battle in the West where the Grizzlies ($1.57), Pelicans ($4.00) and Trail Blazers ($5.00) are all competing for the 8th and final playoffs spot. The Griz currently hold a 2 1/2 game edge on the other two teams.
One other interesting market is the “NBA Finals Exact Matchup” market, where the Lakers and Bucks, naturally, feature prominently.
$4.00 Bucks v Lakers
$4.50 Bucks v Clippers
$11.00 Bucks v Rockets
$15.00 Bucks v Nuggets
$18.00 Celtics v Lakers