NBA Key Dates Finalized; Preseason Schedule Released
- The first half of the NBA regular season schedule has been announced!
- The Los Angeles Lakers lead the NBA in National TV Games.
- The NBA league office bans players from bars, clubs, pools, and gyms in newly introduced COVID guidelines.
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On Friday, the NBA released the first half of its regular-season schedule as they continue to navigate the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the season has been shortened to 72-games, the first half of the season will span from December 22, 2020, to March 4, 2021.
NBA Tip-Off 2020 kicks off with two exciting matchups between the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets, and the LA Clippers versus the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers. The first game will see Kevin Durant face his old team for the first time since joining the Brooklyn Nets in 2019. The much-anticipated face-off between the Lakers and Clippers will be a preview of what many expect the Western Conference Final to look like.
The NBA announced that the second half of the 2020-2021 NBA season schedule would be revealed shortly before the completion of the first phase. The split schedule is likely an attempt to allow for dynamic changes to the calendar, as the league expects complications to arise from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Los Angeles Lakers Headline Christmas and National TV Schedule
The NBA has always ruled Christmas day, being the only major professional sports league to perform on the holiday. Five matches are scheduled for December 25th, headlined by the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Dallas Mavericks in the primetime 8:00 PM EST slot. The scheduled Christmas matches are as follows:
- New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat (12:00 PM EST on ESPN)
- Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks (2:30 PM EST on ABC)
- Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics (5:00 PM EST on ABC)
- Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers (8:00 PM EST on ABC/ESPN)
- LA Clippers at Denver Nuggets (10:30 PM EST on ESPN)
The NBA does not schedule matches on Christmas Eve, in order for players and staff to prepare properly for the games as well as spend time with their family. The New York Knicks have played the most games on Christmas Day even their inaugural match!
NBA Players Are Restricted from Going to Bars or Clubs Under New Health and Safety Rules
Everyone was expecting the NBA to tighten up its restrictions on behavior for its 2020-2021 NBA season, but the first surprising steps were announced on Saturday. In a 158-page memo, the league specifies what players can and cannot do when not present at their team’s facilities.
Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals, which includes players and staff, are not allowed to enter bars, lounges, clubs, live entertainment venues, public gyms, spas, pools, or indoor social gatherings (of 15 or more people). Each team will be able to designate as many as 45 people as Tier 1 individuals. Tier 2 individuals are any who regularly interact with Tier 1 individuals.
Tier 1 and 2 individuals will be subject to daily PCR tests, while household members of players and staff will be provided testing on a twice-a-week basis.
The Portland Trail Blazers Closed Their Practice Facilities
The Portland Trail Blazers are deep in the process of preparing for the 2020-2021 NBA season. In a report by Shams Charania however, the Trail Blazers were forced to close down their practice facilities after there were three positive coronavirus tests within the organization.
Trail Blazers President Neil Olshey put forth a statement distributed by the team, stating that the decision to shut down the practice facility was made “out of an abundance of caution”. Olshey’s concern is certainly owed to the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the NBA’s new protocols on health and safety.
No date has been announced regarding when the Blazers facility will be reopened, and there was no announcement for their practice plans for the upcoming week. The Portland Trail Blazers’ first preseason match will be on Friday December 11, 2020.
Pelicans Star Zion Williamson Sees No Restrictions Heading Into Next Season
The New Orleans Pelicans had to cautiously manage their rising star during his rookie campaign. In October of 2019, Williamson underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus that saw him miss the first three months of the regular season. Upon his return Williamson’s minutes were managed closely, playing over 30 minutes only 11 times in 24 appearances.
In an interview with media during Pelicans training camp, Williamson announced that he would not have a minutes restriction going into the opening of the 2020-2021 NBA season. Van Gundy said to reporters that Williamson passed his conditioning test without issue.
Williamson was the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans. Despite appearing in only 24 games during the 2019-2020 campaign, Williamson was named to the 2019-2020 All-Rookie Team. He averaged 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds on 58.3% shooting from the field and 42.9% shooting from three.
Rockets Concern Over Harden As He Misses First Practice
After the Houston Rockets let go of Daryl Morey, Mike D’Antoni, and Russell Westbrook, all eyes are on the Rockets front office to make a move regarding former MVP James Harden’s future. Reportedly seeking a trade, James Harden missed the Houston Rockets’ first team practice.
The NBA required any player participating in training camp to be in quarantine from November 27 to December 2 ahead of the designated training camp dates. Photos found on Instagram seemed to suggest that Harden was not in quarantine over the weekend, but at a party with rapper Lil’ Baby.
When asked about Harden’s situation, first-year head coach Stephen Silas was non-committal. Silas said to ESPN:
I would just say I want him here, and I want him to be a big part of what we’re doing. I’m excited to coach him and have him be a part of what we just had out there with a good practice, with a bunch of guys who are working hard on both ends of the floor and had a good vibe about them.
While his commitment to the team is in question, Harden is a Houston Rockets player until further notice.
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
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