Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. In case you haven't heard, NBA basketball is set to return July 30th in the place in which all of your wildest dreams come true. Yes, that's right folks, the NBA is heading to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Now while it's exciting for our favorite sport to finally be returning, especially with the playoffs on the horizon, there's still a lot of questions that need to be answered. Sure, there's plenty of topics that have already come to the surface in recent discussions. With the pandemic that is sweeping our nation, it's obvious that no fans will be attending the games. This of course cannot be understated as a large component of the game that is being thrown out of the window. The rumor mill has stated that the NBA is considering pumping in "NBA2K" sounds to provide fans and players with some sort of "normalcy" throughout this difficult time.
The game of basketball is going to be drastically different compared to the sport we have come accustomed to knowing. Are momentum swings going to exist anymore? Will certain players struggle without the crowd's roar surging energy into their games? Are refs going to be better or worse without crowds? We have plenty to discuss so let's get into it.
ARE SOME COACHES GOING TO BE EVEN BETTER THAN BEFORE?
One of the first questions we need to focus on involves the coaches around the NBA. Now consider this, with crowd noise thrown out the door you could argue that teams with outstanding communication could flourish. Does this mean coaches will be more vocal than ever as well? Take for example if you've ever watched a Boston Celtics game, you've more than likely heard Celtics coach Brad Stevens barking out commands on both sides of the floor. Will a coach like Stevens have more of a factor than ever if his players can hear him clearer now? Defensive communication will be crucial as well, and coaching staffs could be more active than ever. Another voice on the floor describing what's happening could make teams that hang their hat on defensive ability even stronger. It also could hurt a team if they are relying too much on what they are hearing. Will coaches be less likely to call out sets because the offense will hear what that team is looking for? The NBA game is going to become more of a "chess-like" game mentality than ever before.
WILL CERTAIN PLAYERS STRUGGLE WITHOUT THE CROWD ENERGY?
Another crucially important topic that needs to be discussed with the "New NBA" that will be put on display starting July 30th. There's no secret that there are players in this league that feed off of the energy that a home crowd can provide them, especially when it comes to the playoffs. Teams will struggle to get going and their home fans simply carry them to get back into a game or get in a rhythm. Well, throw that concept completely out of the picture, because we don't have fans anymore. Although he won't be in the playoffs this year, Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry is a perfect example of this. How many times have we seen Curry hit two three's before the Warriors home crowd was ready to explode like a nuclear bomb when Curry next touched the ball. How many times have we seen Giannis Antetokounmpo set a Milwaukee Bucks crowd into "Mad Max Fury Road" levels of rage when the Greek Freak went fullcourt in transition before finishing with a thunderous slam.
Are those momentum-changing plays even going to exist anymore? More on that later, but the important factor is focusing on the idea that some players won't have that extra "boost" of energy to keep them rolling. A player who could be struggling shooting and then feeds off of the crowd's energy after his first make, he's not going to have that luxury anymore. It's all going to have to come from within.
WILL OTHER PLAYERS IMPROVE?
Now, this is a counter to the question above that I simply cannot get out of my head. Think of the open-gym type of Alpha's that might be licking their chops at the proposed NBA format moving forward. Yes, you know where I'm going with this one. Insert Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook. Players like Westbrook might feed off of the minimal fans with a hefty amount of increased trash-talking. Westbrook might come down the lane and rip the rim off with a dunk before chirping at the opposing defense for the next 3 possessions. Will the trash-talking, without fans, allow for players to feed off of winning the mental game against their opponents?
The list could go on when you start to think of other players in this category that could thrive. Defensive and momentum-changing seeking weapons such as Los Angeles Clippers Patrick Beverly and Boston Celtics Marcus Smart could see their ability on the defensive side of the ball improve with the surging amount of trash-talking that is bound to happen.
DOES HOME COURT ADVANTAGE EXIST?
One of the top questions that basketball fans will have to wait and see about moving forward. It's hard to argue that this answer is anything but no at this point. With the NBA playoffs being played out on a neutral site, there's little reason to believe that any "home team" is going to have an advantage. There was even rumored preliminary discussions about franchises wanting to transport their home floor for games. It doesn't seem like the NBA is going to move forward with that concept, but things could rapidly change. So what does that mean for home-court advantage? Can teams funnel in their in-game music or sounds to provide a similar feeling to what they were used to? Would it even really matter? It's hard to find reasons to swing this towards a "yes, this team is going to have an advantage."
ARE "MOMENTUM SWINGS" GOING TO HAPPEN ANYMORE?
Honestly, this is the most important question that NBA and basketball fans worldwide need to consider. Momentum swings are such an important part of the game of basketball, especially when it comes to the NBA Playoffs. A team run is something that can completely swing the momentum of the game. Normally, a team run for the home team awakens the crowd and can have the opposing team back peddling. With no fans in the seats in Orlando, there's an argument that momentum swings won't even exist.
Think of it this way. In a normal game, your favorite team could be struggling to find a bucket throughout a quarter of play. But let's say a player goes down the floor and throws down a massive poster dunk to get his team fired up. Now normally, the opposing team would feel the crowd come alive. This could be the start of a 10-0 run to get that team back into the momentum of the game. But with a massive poster dunk like that, will there even be a swing in momentum? With no fans to hype up a specific play...will it even have a game-changing effect. There's a strong reason to believe that there won't. "Momentum swings" will likely be thrown out the door. A "next play" approach will be more crucial than ever for these players, as they won't have to deal with a thunderous roar from the crowds.
WILL THE REFS IMPROVE OR DECLINE?
Ah yes, the question that is secretly on all of our minds. Now I'm the first one to admit that Playoff refs are one of the most terrifying things in our world. Basically in the same conversation as Freddy Kruger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Playoff refs strike serious fear into the lives of NBA fans. But the "no fans" aspect of basketball in Disney World got me thinking...shouldn't this make refs better? No longer will refs feel the pressure of a "bee-hive" of a home crowd. There will be no biased calls that raise the approval of the home crowd. That's at least my dream for our new edition of NBA basketball.
But then there's the OTHER side of this argument. Are refs going to be more inclined than ever to give the superstar treatment? Yes, it exists stop trying to convince yourself it doesn't. I want to give a hug every year to the underdog fan base in a playoff series that has to deal with Lebron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo attacking the lane and getting whistles frequently. Hopefully, this doesn't mean that refs will be more inclined than ever to blow the whistle, realizing they don't have to hear the repeated boos of an upset home crowd. I mean James Harden isn't really wanting to score 30 by only getting to the free-throw line is he?
At the end of the day, we all have to be excited that NBA basketball is returning with all of its glory. The game we love is coming back into our lives. The disturbing truth is that it's going to be completely different in many aspects. Refs will change, players will change, coaches will change, and the game itself as we know it will change. It will be an interesting experience for both the players and the fans, as we will re-learn to appreciate the sport in its entirety. It just feels good to have basketball back in our world.