NBA Calendar Release: Afternoon Basketball, An Easy Road To The Pelicans And Other Key Takeaways

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Early Friday, the NBA and the players’ association finalized a resumption plan for the 2019-2020 season on July 30 at Disney World in Orlando. Despite all concerns, ranging from health and safety, to basketball being a distraction from the social justice movement, there are signs that they are playing basketball later this summer.

While this is still somewhat speculative, especially with the increase in coronavirus cases in Florida, the plan never felt more real than it did on Friday evening, when the league announced the calendar. The 22 teams invited to the bubble will play eight “ranking matches” which will help fulfill regional television contracts, make money for the league and give teams and players a chance to get back in shape before the playoffs. It’s basically a shortened version of the rest of the regular season.

Seeding matches will start on July 30 and continue until August 14. There will be a maximum of seven games per day, and only two of the three courts used will be set up for national television. The schedule is now defined, here are some key points to remember:

Afternoon basketball

The league has just over two weeks to schedule eight games for 22 teams, all with only three courts available. With a real tightening of time and resources, and in an effort to maximize the audience for each match, the league offers us a rare pleasure: afternoon basketball.

Sure, there will be weekend afternoon games during a normal season, but only a few here and there. During the week, the first tips are almost always 7 p.m. AND. But due to extenuating circumstances, afternoon games are not only a necessity but will be accessible to even more people, as work situations have changed dramatically across the country. Also, with unauthorized fans in the arena, having more games on TV makes perfect sense.

There will be at least one afternoon game each day, except July 30, which is the new “opening night.” The first scheduled game at this time is 12:30 p.m. ET deviation between the Wizards and Thunder on Sunday, August 9.

All roads point to pelicans playoffs

At the end of the season, the Pelicans were 28-36, placing them 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies for eighth and final playoff spot in the West. They would have had a major field to catch up, but with an easy schedule and the arrival of Zion Williamson, many thought they had a real chance of making it.

Now that we know their schedule for Orlando, that feeling remains the same. Pelicans have the simplest schedule based on the opponent’s winning percentage. In fact, with .495, they are the only team out of 22 with an opposing winning percentage below .500. They will play Jazz and the Clippers to start, but will then finish with the Grizzlies, Kings, Wizards, Spurs, Kings and Magic.

All told, it’s six games against teams under .500, only three against teams currently in the playoffs and only one against a real competitor. Getting past the Grizzlies in just eight games will be difficult, but they should have a chance at all four, which would put them in a play-in tournament position.

Conspiracy theorists will suggest that the league put this method in place to get Williamson into the playoffs, and there is no doubt that the league wants this to happen from a marketing perspective. However, the Pels had the easiest time remaining before the season was suspended, and the league tried to maintain that balance in Orlando.

National television disparities

Obviously, the league and the television networks are going to want the best teams on TV more often than the bad teams. In general, this is not a surprise, but even so, the disparity in national game shows is quite interesting.

The Lakers, for example, will have at least seven of their games on ESPN, ABC or TNT. Next are the Celtics with six, while other competitors such as the Bucks and Clippers have five each. On the other hand, you have teams such as the Wizards and the Suns with zero such games on one of these channels, which is just another reminder that they shouldn’t even be there in the first place.

Perhaps the most surprising note from the national television cast is that the Sixers have only two games on ESPN, ABC or TNT, and Luka Doncic and the Mavericks were limited to three.

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