When the NBA burped up its plan to restart its 2019-20 season the other day, one of my thoughts was: Hell of a way to prepare to win a national championship.
The League is planning on taking its sweet time in the restart, and of course, in doing so, it isn’t beholden to any college team like Gonzaga, which has designs on emerging from this nether world with its first NCAA title banner next April.
I’d kind of assumed that we might get a scaled-down version of the NBA playoffs, much like the coronavirus has scaled down everything. Silly me, forgetting there’s too much money in those televised playoff games. The League isn’t poised for a restart until July 31 and playoff series will be per-usual, seven games. The thing could actually go until Oct. 12. Good thing the Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t part of it; they might have had to call in the locals from ice-fishing.
You'd think you could dispense in pretty short order with the regular season, since, when they stopped playing March 11, some teams had completed 66 of their 82 games. That's 80 percent.
(Meanwhile, the 2020-21 NBA season is due to begin Dec. 1. Can’t wait for the load-management controversies, starting about Dec. 4.)
July 31 seems a long way off, in a world living day-to-day. But the NBA still has to work out details for use of Walt Disney World Resort for use of the Orlando plant for all games, housing and practices.
For Gonzaga, the immediate impact of the NBA reboot is that the great muddled future just became more muddled.
The pushed-back NBA agenda now calls for an Oct. 15 draft. All the run-up proceedings have been delayed as well, and the NCAA has declared the deadline for player withdrawal from the draft to be Aug. 3, or 10 days after the NBA draft combine, whichever comes first.
Aug. 3 is exactly two months later than when it was scheduled to have been. And, you surely have noticed, NCAA schools aren’t planning a two-month delay in starting fall classes.
In Gonzaga’s case, that means – potentially, anyway – that in the same month some of its players are beginning ’20-21 classes, they’re deciding on whether to leave the place for good and play pro basketball.
Now in reality, I suspect Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi and Filip Petrusev will pretty much have landed on a decision by sometime in July, once they’ve gotten more input from NBA teams. They’ve probably already got an inclination, and it could be confirmed or reversed by whether they get an invitation to the combine.
No doubt, the GU staff is well piped-in on those inclinations. But things can change, or intentions can be misread; the Zags didn’t think Zach Collins was going to be outbound after one season, and he surprised them in 2017.
Bottom line, if you’re crafting a roster you hope capable of winning the 2021 national championship – and a lot of people believe Gonzaga is one of those candidates – you’d like to have a little more certainty. A little more routine. You’d like, for instance, to know how about Ayayi’s future, and how his potential departure would affect the incoming freshman class, including guards Dominick Harris and Jalen Suggs, the most heralded recruit in Zag history.
But this is the way of the world in 2020. In a way, the compressed timeline takes us back to an era when transfers (grad transfers, in particular) weren’t so prevalent on the landscape. Back then, if a player bailed unexpectedly for the NBA draft, you were hard-pressed to dial up a replacement. You couldn’t hit “accelerate” on the grad-transfer market. You might be pretty much relegated to combing the junior colleges, and that’s often risky business.
No doubt, in Mark Few's ideal world, this is not how he would have envisioned launching a national-title contender.
Oct. 12 for the NBA championship? That’s two days after Texas and Oklahoma meet in the Red River Rivalry, a day after the Seahawks host the Vikings. The NHL could still be dropping pucks in October. Maybe by then baseball will have wedged out a piece of the playoff sports calendar.
Maybe. That’s a word that comes up a lot these days.