Road To Restart

ORLANDO, Fla. — With over 350 players on 22 teams gathered in one city and at one theme park that’s been magically transformed into one basketball ecosystem, everyone’s asking one question today:

How did we get here?

The orange basketball has taken its share of strange bounces throughout the 74-season history of the NBA, none loopier than the series of ricochets that began last fall and will continue into this fall. The crowning of the next NBA champion, therefore, will elicit a pair of celebrations — one of joy for the victors, one of relief for the league’s improbable journey.

The restart of the 2019-20 season, which endured a four-month pause caused by coronavirus, will officially launch Thursday evening inside a pair of small gyms at Walt Disney’s Wide World of Sports. Normally occupied by youth sports teams that flock to Disney in summertime, they’ve been tricked out to specifically meet the new requirements for a new world and what the NBA is marketing as a Whole New Game.

And so, sometime in early October, the Larry O’Brien Trophy will be hoisted in a place without fans, little fanfare and by players who’ll be excused for violating the social distance rule in order to give each other much-needed hugs.

“I’m excited about giving the world something to be excited about,” Rockets star James Harden said. “Just some joy and something to look forward to.”

If the end-game seems complicated, the starting line was rather mundane back in late September, shortly after training camps started.

‘A difficult year’

Amazingly, what passed for “news” then was a short-lived rap feud between Blazers star Damian Lillard and retired Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal. Imagine if the only wreckage in the 2019-20 season was confined to lyrics and a diss track.

Instead, drama and headlines only intensified from there. The league found itself in a social bind when Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong while his team and others toured China for exhibition games. Because the NBA and a handful of stars have business ties with China, commissioner Adam Silver had to stomp brush fires while also toeing the line for free speech, which is encouraged within the NBA. Silver later admitted the entire episode cost the NBA hundreds of millions in revenue and placed future China trips and business dealings in jeopardy.

And that was only the start of a big money drip.

When the season began, it did so without a precocious and much-celebrated No. 1 draft pick. Zion Williamson had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and skipped the first three months, denying the NBA and its TV partners a rookie whose sizzle didn’t arrive until he made his debut in mid-January, better late than never.

Other injuries combined to thwart a fully functional league: Stephen Curry, Paul George, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin and also Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, both done for the season following surgery last summer.

MORE ON THIS STORY:https://www.nba.com/article/2020/07/30/nba-restart-2019-20

The Best Moments from NBA All-Star Weekend 2020

From Kobe tributes to Dunk Contest controversy and an All-Star Game for the ages, this was one weekend basketball fans will never forget.

Image via Getty/Stacy Revere

Kobe Bryant committed his life to being the best—the best on the basketball court, the best in business and entertainment, and the best father. Simply… the best.

It was fitting, then, that as today’s best NBA players gathered in Chicago for the 2020 All-Star Weekend, the festivities were saturated with moving tributes to the great 2-guard, and that this All-Star Weekend was perhaps the best we’ve ever had.

Kobe redefined hard work. There will only ever be one Mamba. And his one-of-a-kind impact was omnipresent in Chicago this past weekend.

Prior to the All-Star Game, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the game’s MVP award had been renamed for Kobe. In Sunday night’s showdown between the All-Star teams helmed by this year’s two top vote-getters, Team Giannis wore Kobe’s No. 24 while Team LeBron sported No. 2 in honor of Kobe’s daughter, Gianna Bryant. The structure of the game was even altered, with Bryant’s signature 24 playing a key role in the scoring system.  

To kick off Sunday’s game, hometown favorite Jennifer Hudson offered a rousing tribute to the Mamba and Kawhi Leonard dedicated his All-Star Game MVP to the former Lower Merion guard. Kobe was the focus during Friday’s entertaining activities and Saturday’s exhilarating slate. He was the center of everything.

Plenty happened off-court at All-Star Weekend, too. At the Metro All-Access Purple Couch event on Saturday, Khris Middleton, Tyler Herro, and Jason Terry dished on the behind-the-scenes realities of NBA life and shared insights on their experiences in the league. READ MORE IN DEPTH COVERAGE

N.B.A. Finals: Warriors Stun Cavs With Late Surge to Win Game 3

08cavs4-jumboIn an absolutely stunning defeat, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had led for much of the second half, fell apart in the closing seconds of Game 3 of the N.B.A. finals and ended up losing to the Golden State Warriors, 118-113. Golden State, after an 11-0 run at the end of the game, now has a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.

In the final 3 minutes and 10 seconds of Game 3, the Cavaliers saw their chances of an upset in these finals essentially evaporate. The Warriors closed the game on a huge run that was all Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, with Durant’s 26-foot 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining putting the team on top to stay, 114-113.

The run seemed to come out of nowhere, with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving dominating for much of the second half, combining for 77 points in the game. The two-man dominance was simply not enough, even with a solid effort from J.R. Smith, thanks to the Warriors’ stacked lineup. Klay Thompson, Durant and Curry combined for 87 points, with Durant leading the way with 31 and Curry improbably tying Kevin Love as the game’s top rebounder with 13.

With the win, the Warriors have now extended their postseason record to 15 consecutive games, and in Friday’s Game 4 have a chance to be the first team to complete a postseason undefeated. Needless to say, no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the N.B.A. finals. But if there is a glimmer of hope for the stunned Cavaliers, no team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit until last year when Cleveland did that against Golden State.