A Whole New Game

THE NBA IS BACK! LET’S GO!

Hello everyone! This piece discusses my reaction to the NBA Restart, revisits my league predictions from January, and more. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.


I’ve been looking forward to writing this piece.

For those unfamiliar with my beginnings, Andy’s Buckets was initially an NBA blog. I would write on the trending news across the National Basketball Association.

Trailblazers guard C.J McCollum sitting down after practice, in a “Black Lives Matter” tee.

But, as we dove deeper into 2020, I began to diverge from that topic of work. I noticed my audience gravitating more towards my personal stories.

Despite that, it feels good to be back where I began, writing about the top sports league in the world.

Now, let’s get down to business.

As you may know, The NBA will resume play on Thursday, July 30th, following a four-month stoppage, due to COVID-19.

With the league making its much-awaited return, it presents viewers with a completely new look.

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (#45) dribbling up court during a scrimmage game last week.

For starters, the restart is taking place at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports also known as “The Bubble.”

It’s a campus occupied by twenty-two NBA teams (players, coaching staff, team personnel), media members, Disney employees, etc. 

Teams arrived at Disney in July and will remain there until Mid-October.

Secondly, arenas. There is no home-court advantage. Gone are team signage on the hardwood, and crazy fans barking at opposing teams.

Games will now be played at The Arena, HP Field House, & Visa Athletic Center.

These three arenas include simple hardwood, with the NBA logo at center court, and the message “Black Lives Matterdirectly above it.

Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (blue) defending Sixers forward Ben Simmons (white) during a scrimmage game last week.

There are also giant screens surrounding the arena, used for team promos and “virtual crowds”, that the NBA is experimenting with.

As for the actual crowd, it consists of players, coaches, announcers, and media members, socially distancing around the court. A far cry from what we’re used to.

And lastly, the “restart.”

The conclusion of the 2019–20 season, will include three scrimmage games, & eight seeding games for each team. Following the seeding games, are the playoffs.

Now, that’s a ton of information to digest. There’s more to know, but it would take forever to explain.

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (#14) shooting over Nets center Jarrett Allen (#31) during a scrimmage game last week.

In terms of the basketball being played, the product on the court was significantly above my expectations.

In preparation for this piece, I watched the highlights of all thirty-three scrimmages played between July 22nd and July 28th.

I anticipated some rust, and a few injuries as players got reacclimated to the NBA game, following the four-month hiatus.

However, it appears that our athletes worked diligently to stay in shape during the quarantine.

And this brings me excitement. I’m curious to see how the games unfold, as we travel further into this restart.

So far, “The Bubble” is off to a promising start. It’s nice to see the NBA making the best of an unfavorable situation.

Raptors guard Terrence Davis (#0) defending Rockets guard James Harden (red) during a scrimmage game last week.

Nonetheless, I just want to see some fucking basketball being played. The playoffs are my favorite time on the NBA calendar.

Despite not being played in its traditional setting, I’m grateful to witness exceptional athletes play this game at an elite level. And most importantly, they’re healthy.

And that’s all that matters. To me at least.


Let’s transition to a more serious matter. 

Several NBA players, most noticeably Nets guard Kyrie Irving, expressed displeasure with participating in the NBA restart, due to its potential distraction of the systematic racism captivating America.

At the time the NBA restart was announced, the African American community was still mourning the murder of George Floyd, and recovering from the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, amongst others.

Nuggets rookies Bol Bol & Tyler Cook (#25) during a scrimmage game last week.

Basketball, and sports in general, were secondary at the moment.

However, the NBA and its players have done an exceptional job utilizing their platform to advocate for social justice.

We’ve seen the Toronto Raptors placing the message “Black Lives Matter” on the team bus. Teams are having discussions on how they can further use their platform to spread this message.

And there’s my favorite, players replacing the last names on the backs of their jerseys, with messages like “Equality” & “Freedom.”

But the most noticeable action taking place is during media availability.

Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (white) defending Trailblazers forward Carmelo Anthony (black) during a scrimmage game last week.

Several players have dedicated entire interviews to Breonna Taylor, repeating the phrase “Justice for Breonna Taylor”, when asked a question.

Why are they doing this?

Well, the officers who murdered the twenty-six-year-old EMT and aspiring nurse, have yet to be arrested for their crime. And our athletes want justice to be served.

It’s amazing that our leagues and athletes are using this opportunity to make a statement.

It shows us that our favorite players are both aware of what’s going on, and for the cause. Can’t wait to see how teams protest during the seeding games.

And of course, writing “Black Lives Matter” on a basketball court won’t end systemic racism, but it will get us closer towards eradicating this pandemic.

*Huge shoutout to the WNBA. Every player in the league has Breonna Taylor’s name displayed proudly across the back of their jerseys. Classy move flying beneath the radar.

Phoenix Mercury center Britney Griner, wearing the WNBA’s new jersey’s honoring Breonna Taylor

Before I conclude, I must revisit a few NBA predictions I made in January, as well as add to them, ahead of the restart. 

(Click here and here to read my original 2020 predictions)

The predictions, I plan on maintaining are:

  • The Greek Freak will repeat as MVP.
  • Clippers depth making history.
  • The Eastern Conference playoff bracket will remain the same.

Allow me to explain.

Prior to the shutdown, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was the favorite to repeat for MVP, despite a strong push by LeBron in March.

The Milwaukee Bucks second unit during one of their scrimmage games last week.

And it helps that the NBA is excluding seeding games from award voting, further solidifying this season’s winner.

Next, I have Clippers big Montrezl Harrell the winning the 6MOY award.

He receives the nod because of potential voter’s fatigue towards teammate Lou Williams, and his importance to a Clippers squad that values his energy and interior scoring.

And for my final prediction, only nine Eastern Conference teams were invited to the NBA restart. And being more than five games behind for the eighth seed with eight games remaining, it’s virtually impossible for the ninth-seeded Wizards to make the playoffs at this point.

Safe to say, they won’t be in Orlando for long.

Celtics starters Gordon Hayward (#20), Jaylen Brown (#7), & Marcus Smart (#36) during a scrimmage game last week.

As for the predictions I would like to add, in no particular order:

  • There will be at least one fifty-point performance during the seeding games.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies will remain as the #8 seed in the West.
  • The Bucks will defeat the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • The Lakers will defeat the Clippers in the Western Conference Finals.
  • This year NBA Finals will feature the Lakers & Bucks.

To save time, I’ll only explain my Finals prediction.

Heat guards Goran Dragic & Jimmy Butler (#22) during a scrimmage game last week.

In the East The Bucks remain the only true title contender, despite challengers like Boston, Toronto, Miami, and Philly lurking behind.

Although these squads have the personnel to contain the reigning MVP, Giannis and company boast an elite defense, efficient three-point shooting, and an urgency to reach the Finals following last season’s disappointing playoff exit.

The East is their conference to lose.

In the Western Conference, the Clippers and Lakers are their only title contenders. The Nuggets, Rockets, Jazz, and Mavericks are one move away from reaching this tier.

Now, back in January, I originally picked the Clippers to reach the Finals out West.

Thunder guards Andre Roberson (#21), Luguentz Dort (#5), & Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (#2) during a scrimmage game last week.

And, the reason I’m switching that pick to the Lakers, is because of LeBron.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t bet against King James when he’s surrounded by talent, and this Lakers team has MVP candidate Anthony Davis, and a solid collection of two-way contributors.

And to add insult to injury, it’s well-documented that he remained in peak shape during quarantine, and definitely pushed his teammates to do the same.

The Clips do have more deeper roster, but I refuse to bet against a LeBron that just received a four-month rest.

Now, allow me to clarify.

I WANT the Clippers to defeat the Lakers in a potential playoff matchup.

But, if there was money on the line, I’d bet on the Lakers.

As for the winner of a Bucks versus Lakers showdown? I’ll save that answer for a future article.

Magic forward Aaron Gordon (#00) defending Clippers forward (#2) during a scrimmage game last week.

In conclusion, as we begin the month of August, it’s refreshing to see our world almost return to normal. 

Yes, there’s racism, gun violence, and COVID-19 still present. They may never go away.

However, rather than dwelling on what is negative, let’s enjoy the positive. 

Sports are back! Most college students will return to campus next semester. We can eat at restaurants again.

These experiences were stripped from us for more than three months.

And as quarantine has shown us, we must cherish the elements in our life that bring us joy.

Although easier said than done, pondering on all that’s wrong, will do nothing but hinder us moving forward.

Message “Black Lives Matter” on the hardwood at the NBA restart court.

Therefore, I’m going to cherish the NBA returning, because I damn sure missed it while it was gone.


If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!

Blessings,

Andy

*Special shoutout to Autumn, Jalen F, James, Mathews, & Cole a.k.a Gfwoody.

One thought on “A Whole New Game

  1. You’re gonna go a long way with this shit bro nfs. Keep up the good work I’ll always be here to support you my guy💯 GO ANDY GO ANDY 💯

    Like

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