Like a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, the NBA is going to Disney World!
The only difference being instead for one day with a celebratory parade, this will be for three months playing inside empty gyms without anyone cheering as 22 teams complete the rest of the 2019-20 season and hopefully don’t catch the novel coronavirus in the process.
Look, a return-to-play plan is exciting news and should provide hope that we can return to normalcy sooner than later. On the flip side, are the many valid health and safety concerns that are involved in trying to restart a professional sports league amid a pandemic.
So while you can look at the NBA’s announcement Thursday afternoon as a positive, know that everything isn’t just peachy keen just yet and there are still problems that need to be worked out.
As such, here’s a rundown of the biggest winners and losers from the NBA’s approved return-to-play plan.
It doesn’t take much to understand the No. 1 driving factor behind the NBA’s desperate attempt to return.
As Sam Amick of The Athletic reported about a month ago, the NBA would stand to lose about $900 million in television revenue if there is no 2020 post-season.
That’s a problem that would appear to have disappeared, and now with the added bonus of possible play-in games for the No. 8 seed thrown into the mix, that’s even more games that could be marketed as playoff contests.
Like the “First Four” in the NCAA Tournament, the NBA could promote these play-in game — giving clubs the privilege of being destroyed by the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers — as the new first round of the playoffs and charge networks premium prices for broadcast rights.
So when we all tune back in for the NBA while we’re having a blast again, do keep in mind that the only reason why this is happening is because the NBA needed to find a way to stop hemorrhaging money.
The Toronto Raptors and other East contenders
One of the most interesting things around the talk about the NBA’s return-to-play plan was rumblings of drastic format changes.
Ideas such as a World Cup-style group stage or a No. 1-through-16 bracket got people talking and thinking about fun hypotheticals where Eastern Conference teams square off against Western Conference teams during the entire post-season, instead of just in the Finals.
Given the extreme nature of the times we’re living in, the NBA could’ve tried out new formats relatively risk-free because anything that happens during this “COVID Cup” season will likely come associated with the dreaded asterisk due to how weird everything is.
Instead, the NBA went conservative in its approach, opting for the traditional conference-based brackets with four best-of-seven rounds.
Boring this may be, but if you’re the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics or Bucks, or any other Eastern Conference team that believes themselves a legitimate contender, then going with the old favourite here must have you ecstatic.
No doubt there are tough battles to be had in the Eastern Conference, but compared to the wolves out West even outside of the playoff picture right now — like the Portland Trail Blazers or New Orleans Pelicans, let alone the Memphis Grizzlies or Dallas Mavericks in the Nos. 7 and 8 at the moment — the likes of the Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets look like lost puppies by comparison.
In general, the quality of competition is just a notch or two higher in the Western Conference, and for Eastern Conference teams to avoid that, if even a little, is a big advantage as it opens up a slightly easier path to the Conference Finals for some teams and certainly for the Nos. 1 and 2 Bucks and Raptors.
The Golden State Warriors and the rest of the league’s scrubs
Congratulations to the Dubs, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves and the rest of the NBA’s also-ran group. You did it!
You didn’t get into the bubble!
Not only does that mean you don’t have to take any unnecessary risks by attempting to play pro basketball in the midst of a global pandemic, you also get to preserve those sweet, sweet lottery odds.
If you’re among the true scrubs of the league – such as the basement-dwelling Warriors and Cavaliers – knowing you didn’t make it in has to have you breathing a sigh of relief as this means you can dedicate more time toward the dates that actually matter to you: Aug. 25 and Oct. 15, when the NBA draft lottery and NBA draft, respectively, have been rescheduled.
There’s lots of elite talent at the top of the board to be had, such as Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, centre James Wiseman — who was suspended by the NCAA while at Memphis but left and declared for the draft — and LaMelo Ball who took over in Australia’s NBL for the Illawarra Hawks.
Those are the prizes available for the NBA’s bottom-feeders, and the fact they don’t have to play anymore and can still keep their strong odds while others can weaken theirs further is just icing on the cake.
The Washington Wizards
And on the topic of bad NBA teams, the Washington Wizards and their sterling 24-40 record were invited into the bubble.
Why were they invited, you might be asking? Well, according to the NBA’s format, teams within at least 6.0 games back of the No. 8 seed qualify. And the Wizards are 5.5 games back of the 30-35, No. 8 seeded Orlando Magic.
OK, that’s cool.
Still doesn’t take away the fact the Wizards are among the worst teams in the league, with the 24th-ranked net rating as of the time of the suspension and the worst defence.
The Wizards shouldn’t have been included in this, but perhaps because Bradley Beal is a great player and John Wall is likely to make his return in this resumption that was reason enough to let them in?
So way to go Washington. We’ll be on the lookout for that participation banner hanging in the rafters at some point.
Everyone in the bubble
No matter how much you test, no matter how often you wear a mask, no matter how much you attempt to social distance, everyone within this NBA bubble is at risk – and that includes Mickey Mouse.
So, to everyone that will have to go to this bubble to finish off the season – including players, coaches, general managers, front office executives, public relations staff, janitorial staff, security, medical staff, media and broadcasters, service staff within Disney World that manage and maintain hotels and restaurants, etc. – here’s hoping everything stays safe and there are no cases to be found of COVID-19.
But with over 60,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the state – and over 58,000 being Florida residents – it’s hard not to think of the worst-case scenario coming to pass.
If there is a podcasting odd couple, this might be it. Donnovan Bennett and JD Bunkis don’t agree on much, but you’ll agree this is the best Toronto Raptors podcast going.
Ultimately, the NBA weighed the risk/reward in favour of returning, but it’s worth considering what would happen if/when someone tests positive in the bubble.
The Memphis Grizzlies
Before the NBA suspended its season, the Grizzlies were rolling.
Winners of four of their last six games with a 3.5 game cushion over their next closest rivals for the No. 8 spot in the West and with a rookie phenom in Ja Morant growing ever more comfortable and confident in his abilities, the Grizzlies were looking to finish their final 17-game stretch with a flourish and carry all that momentum into the post-season.
Now, though, after what will be a nearly five-month hiatus before play resumes, you have to wonder if a team that young will be able to just turn it on again?
In particular, with youngsters Morant, Brandon Clarke and Jaren Jackson Jr., it’s hard not to think of all the daily learnings that were halted for these three who look to make up Memphis’ core moving forward.
Youth can be a gift, but being able to ramp up again after a months-long hiatus may be something veterans with more experience would be able to handle better.
The Portland Trail Blazers
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Board of Governors meeting saw the league vote 29-1 in favour of passing the 22-team return-to-play plan with the lone dissenting voice coming from the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers, according to Wojnarowski, chose to vote “No” as they were hoping for more innovative competition formats as reflected by feedback from some of the team’s players.
Sitting 3.5 games back of No. 8 Memphis, the Blazers do appear to be in a good situation to make the playoffs, especially as they figure to be healthier than before with the return of key centre Jusuf Nurkic.
But maybe getting into a situation where you participate in a play-in tournament just for the eighth seed is very different than a more even format, such as a group stage.
What’s done is done now, and though it may seem harmless to back your players on a vote that you knew wasn’t going to your way, not standing united with the commissioner and the rest of league will always have the potential to come around to bite you.
Richard Deitsch and Donnovan Bennett host a podcast about how COVID-19 is impacting sports around the world. They talk to experts, athletes and personalities, offering a window into the lives of people we normally root for in entirely different ways.
The Canadian men’s basketball team
With the dates being what they are and word from the NBA that the 2020-21 season would likely start Dec. 1, that throws a pretty large wrench into Canada Basketball’s plan to be fully loaded for the 2021 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Victoria, B.C.
Right now, the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments are scheduled for June 29 to July 4, dates that would, given a December opening, likely still see the NBA in the midst of its playoffs where a lot of Canada’s top basketball talent could be participating.
But even if Canada should make it out of the OQT, the July 23 to Aug. 8 dates for Tokyo 2021 could still clash with the NBA season.
Once again, it looks like Canada Basketball is stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to the Olympics and its men’s team. There’s always 2024, right?
NASCAR, Wallace respond to Presidents tweet – Yahoo Canada Shine On
President Trump on Monday asked on Twitter if an apology was forthcoming from NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace for his alleged role in what he termed a “hoax” two weeks ago at Talladega Superspeedway, adding that the sanctioning body’s decision to ban the confederate flag has hurt television ratings for its events.
None of these claims are true.
Wallace, the lone Black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, embraced a widespread show of support from the stock-car racing industry and his fellow drivers two weeks ago after the discovery of a noose at his team’s assigned stall at Talladega Superspeedway. The rest of the Cup Series driver roster stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with Wallace on Talladega’s pit road after a crew member for his Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 team reported the noose’s presence to NASCAR officials that weekend.
The Birmingham office of the FBI launched an investigation, later determining that no hate crime had been committed against Wallace and that the garage pull had been tied into a noose since last fall’s events at the Alabama track. That prompted conspiracy theories and other allegations of wrongdoing on social media accusing NASCAR and/or Wallace of falsifying the timeline of events.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed those charges at a press conference June 25, stating: “Bubba Wallace and the 43 team had nothing to do with this.”
Wallace responded later Monday with his own statement, encouraging his followers to “keep your head held high” and saying in part that “always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! Love over hate every day. Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS. Love wins.”
Trump’s mention of the “Flag decision” refers to NASCAR’s June 10 decision to ban the confederate flag from its events and properties. That resolution came days after Wallace advocated for its removal and days after NASCAR drivers banded together for a video message speaking out for social justice in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others in the Black community.
Trump’s claim of “lowest ratings EVER” is false, unsupported by the facts of recent TV ratings data. NBC Sports on Monday said the NASCAR Cup Series’ Sunday event averaged a total audience of 4.37 million viewers, a 46 percent increase from last year’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway race and a 32 percent rise over the Daytona event held on the same weekend last year. Michael Mulvihill, FOX Sports executive vice president in charge of research and Nielsen ratings analysis, said his network’s ratings were up 8 percent since NASCAR racing resumed in May after the coronavirus outbreak.
NASCAR released its own statement Monday afternoon, saying “We are proud to have Bubba Wallace in the NASCAR family and we commend his courage and leadership. NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans.”
A spokesperson also reiterated the stance made by NASCAR President Steve Phelps on June 25: “Bubba has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity and he stood tall for what he believes in.”
Decade Deals: How other 10-year NFL contracts panned out – theScore
While such instances are rare, Mahomes isn’t the first recipient of a contract spanning 10-plus years. Here’s how the other decade-long deals panned out:
March 2001: Brett Favre gets 10 years, $100M from Packers
Favre didn’t anticipate playing beyond 2006 but took a 10-year deal at 31 to help Green Bay massage the salary cap. Though his best days were behind him, Favre still led the NFL in passing touchdowns once and gave the Packers four Pro Bowl seasons after signing the deal. The club made the playoffs five times over the next seven years, and Favre broke the NFL career passing touchdowns record in a Packers uniform.
Favre didn’t finish the contract in Green Bay, though, as he was traded to the New York Jets in 2008 after ending a brief retirement. The Jets released him in 2009 after he retired again, and he signed a fresh contract when he made a second comeback as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
March 2001: Drew Bledsoe gets 10 years, $103M from Patriots
Bledsoe was already regarded as the greatest quarterback in Patriots history by the time he signed his deal. And at 29, it appeared he was signing up to spend the rest of his career in New England. But Bledsoe played only two more games for the Patriots, as an injury in Week 2 of the 2001 season spelled the beginning of the Tom Brady era.
Bledsoe helped the Patriots reach the Super Bowl that year after relieving an injured Brady in the AFC Championship Game and collected a ring as Brady’s backup. Bill Belichick and Co. traded him to the Buffalo Bills that offseason with nine years left on his contract. While Bledsoe got off to a hot start with his new team, he fizzled the following season and was released after the 2004 campaign.
September 2002: Donovan McNabb gets 12 years, $115M from Eagles
McNabb owns the record for the longest contract in NFL history. At 26, he agreed to a 12-year pact with Philadelphia. The deal quickly paid dividends, as McNabb led the Eagles to a Super Bowl berth two years after signing. The Eagles were perennial contenders with McNabb, though they never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy or returned to the Big Game after the 2004 season.
Shockingly, the Eagles traded him to the Washington Redskins in 2010 with four years remaining on his contract. Though only 34, McNabb’s game fell off quickly in Washington, which made the five-year extension he received midway through the 2010 campaign a head-scratcher. He was relegated to third-string duties late in the season and was traded to the Vikings in July 2011. McNabb spent less than one miserable season in Minnesota before he was released, and he retired soon after.
May 2003: Daunte Culpepper gets 10 years, $102M from Vikings
One of the most exciting young quarterbacks in football at the time, Culpepper was 26 when he inked his extension. He immediately rewarded the Vikings with two of his best seasons. In 2004, Culpepper established a new NFL record for total yards by a quarterback, racking up 5,123. He led the league in passing that year with over 4,700 yards.
But he got off to a horrid start in 2005, and in late October, he tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL. The Vikings shipped him to the Miami Dolphins, who were more encouraged by his injury outlook than that of Drew Brees. Culpepper struggled with the Dolphins and was released after one year, with six seasons remaining on his contract. The three-time Pro Bowler had forgettable stints with the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions before exiting the NFL for good.
December 2004: Michael Vick gets 10 years, $130M from Falcons
Atlanta gave a 24-year-old Vick, perhaps the most electrifying quarterback the NFL had ever seen, the richest contract in league history. Vick steered the Falcons to the NFC divisional round that year and appeared to be ascending, but he plateaued. While he became the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season in 2006, his lack of progress as a passer kept him from joining the top echelon of quarterbacks and the Falcons from becoming a Super Bowl threat.
Everything came crashing down in the summer of 2007, as Vick was arrested for his role in a dogfighting ring and spent most of the next two years in prison. The Falcons recovered nearly $20 million in arbitration, and the signal-caller signed with the Eagles upon returning to professional football.
Blue Jays’ 60-game schedule for the abbreviated 2020 MLB regular season – Bluebird Banter
Major League Baseball chose to unveil their 2020 schedule on MLB Network with MLB Tonight: Schedule Release by Camping World®. For some reason, that show conveniently skipped over the Blue Jays’ schedules (along with others) even though they had a lot of talking. That left us to try to piece together the schedule from other teams’ releases until the Blue Jays finally made their own announcement.
Blue Jays baseball is scheduled to return at 6:40 pm on July 24 against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
It is still unclear where these games will be held, but the Blue Jays will open their home schedule on July 29 against the Washington Nationals as a second half of a home-and-home. The Jays then host the Phillies then the Marlins—meaning the first American League team to visit will be the Rays on the weekend of August 14.
If they do get to play in Toronto, the only place to see live baseball games will likely be in one of the field-view suites at the Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel, which is attached to the Rogers Centre. While rooms are available to be booked, it is not clear whether fans will actually be permitted to occupy them as both Blue Jays and visiting personnel are to be set up in there.
The Blue Jays will not be playing on the August 3 Civic Holiday but will be at home hosting the Yankees on Labour Day. The 2020 regular season will end with a seven-game homestand against the Yankees and Orioles. Actually, the Blue Jays will play their entire 10-game schedule against the Yankees in September.
September 27 is the final day of the regular season, and all games, including the Baltimore-Toronto tilt is scheduled to begin at around 3 pm ET.
All home games Monday through Saturday are scheduled to start at 6:37 pm, with Sunday games starting at 3:07 pm.he only exception is the game on Monday, August 31 against Baltimore, when first pitch will be at 2:07 pm. Toronto will not have an off day between August 21 and September 9, playing 20 games in 20 days.
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