It’s certainly strange to be in hockey and basketball preseason with Thanksgiving next week. It’s even weirder that we’re a month or so from a start date — one that is most certainly not rock solid — and yet we don’t know what the schedule will be. But that’s 2020 for you, as both the NHL and NBA continue to piece together what they will hope will be a legitimate season in the midst of the pandemic, which MLB and NFL have questionably done or not, depending on your point of view.
The NBA was able to release a plan to release its schedule, without actually releasing a schedule. Engaged to be engaged, as it were. They will release it in two halves, basically seeing if the first half of the season — scheduled to be released “around the start of training camp” — goes up in flames or not; and if it doesn’t, then they can proceed to the second half. If it sounds a bit like Indiana Jones trying to get to the grail, that’s because it kind of is.
Some bonus quirks are that the play-in to the playoffs used in The Bubble will remain, though in a different form. The 7th and 8th seeds from each conference will engage in a play-in “Seven-Eight Game” at the end of the season, with the winner moving on to the playoffs proper and the loser having to host the winner of the 9th-10th play-in game, “the Nine-Ten Game,” for the last spot. It’s contrived excitement, but at this point it’s a fight we’ve all lost.
There’s also an All-Star break scheduled in March, which is pretty weird considering there’s no way fans will be allowed in buildings, at least fully, in March. An All-Star game without fans seems about as empty as can be, but we’re all through the looking glass.
Lastly, the NBA has scheduled this so the Finals could possibly end the day before the Olympics begin, which you have to admit is expert timing. Even with a mid-July conclusion, the NBA is likely to try to get back on a normal schedule come 2021-22, which still means only a six-week offseason for both teams that make the Finals. That could be another fight.
Meanwhile, their roommates in the NHL aren’t even at the schedule outline yet. It came out yesterday from the NY Post’s Larry Brooks that the owners aren’t done requesting concessions from the players’ union. The agreement that saw the finish to last season and an extension of the CBA included financial give-backs from the players, including salary reductions and a flat salary cap, though with a limit on escrow. But the owners apparently want to ask for 13 percent more from the players, which will go over something like a fart in church. The owners will argue that when the CBA agreement was made, the hope was that fans would be back by the time the following season rolled around. That is not likely now until deep into the season at best, and no league relies on its gate receipts more. This could get contentious, as the players have been moaning about escrow and give-backs for 15 years now.
Let’s end this morning’s wrap with something enjoyable, and that’s Germany getting its ass kicked into tartar by Spain yesterday in the Nations League, getting blasted 6-0.
The Nations League is not the World Cup, so this isn’t karma for what Germany did to Brazil six years ago. Still, it’s a humbling whenever you give up a touchdown. It was not a full-strength German side, but it wasn’t a full-strength Spain either. Much like two years ago, Germany’s midfield was viciously torn through, as Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan couldn’t do much as Spain charged on by. Germany boasts an array of attacking talent that’s the envy of most of the world, but even should it get a healthy Joshua Kimmich back before next summer’s European Championships, it has some defensive issues they’ll need to sort, clearly.