Check, check, it’s halftime

Things are entering the third quarter on the pandemic front. The virus’s searing start was aided by a seemingly unseen force which wreaked havoc on defenses caught unaware. Interviewed at the end of the first quarter, World Health Organization boss, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, spoke about this being an unprecedented start which would require immediate adjustments to avoid being completely torn apart by the sheer tenacity of the onslaught. Speaking of the 35-8 deficit at the end of the first, Ghebreyesus alluded to not knowing enough about the sets the virus was running. “Frankly speaking they’re running something out of the middle ages”, Ghebreyesus languished, a cold sweat breaking out of his customarily stoic visage.

The only player performing to a moderate degree of respectability for Team World was South Korea. When asked during a timeout what was it about their approach that stood out from the rest of the defeated world, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun revealed that unlike the rest of his teammates, he had not taken the relatively unknown opposition lightly. “We can’t assume that we know what we know to not know, so only pretending to know it would force us to face a situation where we would need to know it but wouldn’t know it so we chose to just know it”, said Sye-kyun, holding back an “I told you so”, only because it was the polite thing to do in the social circles Mr. Sye-kyun frequents.

The second quarter was more about survival than recovery. Team World adopted the “Equal Distancing” zone defense which amounts to the five defensive players standing equidistant to each other and the rim. On the surface this looks like a terrible approach with obvious holes, notably that the defense would have to practically be stationary. Once you factor in the stationary aspect of the hoop this task becomes physically impossible with movement impermissible without going out of bounds. The strategy, if one can call it that, exploits a fundamental weakness of the opposition: it’s inability to make anything other than a bounce pass. When quizzed by reporters wearing pita bread for face masks to explain the deficiency, virus head coach Swinebat Batswine hissed, “We thought it was like ping pong. The ball had to bounce”.

Team World was down 50-30 at the break.

– to be continued –

As per former LeBron scribe, Brian Windhorst, the NBA is looking at the ramifications of a cancelled season more than figuring out the logistics of restarting the league. In contrast, European football’s governing body, UEFA, is trying desperately to figure out how to finish the season with so far only the Belgian league awarding their league competition to the current leader, Club Brugge. The advantage the football governing bodies have in the current situation is that they’ve had ample experience organizing matches behind closed doors. UEFA and FIFA have a history of issuing penalties to clubs for fan or management behaviour which result in matches being played in empty or half-empty stadiums. I remember Thierry Henry becoming Arsenal’s record scorer with a brace on a Champions League night in Prague in front of a half-empty stadium with a vocal travelling support:

These punitive penalties force clubs into a state of preparedness that can come in handy in situations like the present, something the NBA has little experience with. Figuring out the bare essential staff that’s needed to run an NBA game is not an easy task – it requires both planning and experimentation. I don’t know what the NBA’s Business Continuity Plan is but it would need to be tested to allow for testing of all involved, safe entry of players, TV and other ancillary personnel into and out of the arena, while also managing their in-arena activities. It’s a difficult but not an impossible task and one the NBA could execute. In the process we could even learn some things, as I’m sure many of us have over the last month. For example:

  • Are two sets of camera crews (for home and away) needed? It’s a form of waste that we’ve come to accept. By contrast football has always had one set of TV cameras with commentary provided by each station over the same video.
  • What is truly the impact of commercial breaks on the game? Yes, there are advertising holes to be filled but would the duration of the game be shortened if we didn’t have in-arena promotions to deal with?
  • What is the impact of not having fans on the officials? Would the lack of fans in the arena affect the home-court advantage in terms of favourable calls? Would the game be fairer?
  • How would the TV production compensate for the lack of fans? Would they be compelled to be more creative and give us access to more huddles, bench reactions, etc. instead of focusing on people in the crowd or Drake?
  • The crowd has always been part of any momentum shift during the game with coaches factoring them in when calling timeouts. Would that change or would coaches be more inclined to let the players figure things out in the absence of this distraction?
  • Would watching the game have a quieter summer-league type feel to it?

From what I have experienced watching football, the product on the pitch has never quite suffered and I don’t think it would in the NBA’s case either. In fact, I would reckon it might even improve it in the long-term as it would force the league to experiment in areas where it never thought to before. The focus would squarely be on basketball as there would be no other in-arena distractions whatsoever. It could make for great theater by allowing us to view the game in a manner we haven’t experienced before. Who knows, we might even like it for a little while at least simply because it’s different?

The pre-condition to all of this has to be getting out of the absolutely red zone that we’re in right now and hopefully on the other side of the peak and the ensuing plateau. Only then are we psychologically able to process something which is not closer to survival than recovery. If we achieve that sense in the next three weeks, killing the season and shortening the playoffs would get the job done from a time perspective. There have been talks of such a tournament being played in the Bahamas or some other tropical destination. That does take away from things because proximity to your team means something to many but we’ll get over it. It’s better than nothing. For now though, it’s time for the third quarter to start and we all know how important a good start to the second half is.

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