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

Best 50 Plays of the 2018 NBA Regular Season

Getting ready for the 2018-2019 Season the hardwood is about to squeak again, enjoy some highlights from last season.
Enjoy the best 50 plays from the 2018 NBA regular season, featuring LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, and more! Subscribe to the NBA: http://bit.ly/2rCglzY For news, stories, highlights and more, go to our official website at http://www.nba.com Get NBA LEAGUE PASS: http://www.nba.com/leaguepass

Tight-knit Clippers rolling along

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers‘ Christmas sweaters were terrible. Hideous actually. Each one uglier than the next. Chris Paul walked into the Clippers’ locker room with a sweater vest stitched with a Christmas tree and ornaments. Blake Griffin rolled in with a knitted vest over snowman pajamas. And Matt Barnes looked like a walking Christmas present with ribbons and bows placed on his sweater by his twin boys. Christmas Day games have become old hat for the team down the hall. The Los Angeles Lakers have played on Christmas Day every year since 1999. This is only the third time the Clippers have played on Christmas Day since 1992. What was once viewed as a nuisance by players and coaches is now viewed as a sign of respect from the league. “It usually means you’re doing something right,” Paul said. “You’re on a guy like Blake Griffin’s team.” There was no way Paul was going to let this day go by without doing something to commemorate the occasion. Not only did every player arrive to Staples Center wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, but they all brought “Secret Santa” gifts for one another as well. These aren’t activities in which most NBA teams partake. Then again, the Clippers aren’t most NBA teams. They are, at least according to the standings, the best team in the NBA. After beating the Denver Nuggets, 112-100, for their first home win on Christmas Day, the Clippers are not only a league-best 22-6, but they have won a franchise-best 14 straight games, the longest streak in the NBA this season. Calling the Clippers the best team in Los Angeles, let alone the NBA, used to be the setup to a played out punch line. Anyone who has watched the Clippers this season, however, realizes they’re far from a punch line and their success this season is far from an aberration. After the Lakers defeated the New York Knicks earlier in the day at Staples Center, Dwight Howard smiled when he was told the Lakers were now 14-14 after winning five in a row. “We’re .500?” he said. “Yes! I knew this day would come.” While Howard was celebrating the Lakers’ 14th win of the season, the Clippers were trying to keep their 14th consecutive win in perspective. The Clippers didn’t begin this season with aspirations of winning 14 straight or starting 22-6 or winning on Christmas Day. Their expectations have always been much higher. CONTINUE READING