All recent reports indicate the NBA is on the verge of returning after a more than two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Disney World Resort in Orlando seems to be the most likely place to host the remainder of the regular season and playoffs, although how many games that will be remains to be seen.
The NBA has reportedly been discussing a number of different formats for finishing out the season, some that include skipping the rest of the season and going right to the playoffs, some that include a play-in tournament for the bubble teams to have a chance to make it and some that include re-seeding the postseason to seeds 1-16 as opposed to having separate conferences.
One player who would be against going straight to the playoffs is Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers currently are 3.5 games behind the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies at 29-37, meaning they would be on the outside looking in if the league resumed action by beginning the playoffs.
In an interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, Lillard announced that he will not play any games if his team does not have a chance to make the postseason:
“If we come back and they’re just like, ‘We’re adding a few games to finish the regular season,’ and they’re throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team. But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday morning via phone.
“If we come back and I don’t have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I’ll be at practice and I’ll be with my team. I’m going to do all that [expletive] and then I’m going to be sitting right on that bench during the games,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “If they come back and say it’s something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we’re playing for playoff spots, then I think that’s perfect.”
Portland made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals a year ago, although injuries have caused them to take a step back this season. Lillard still feels that he and his team would give the Los Angeles Lakers a better series than Memphis:
“I just feel like that would be the matchup people want to see,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “And not to say nobody wants to see Memphis, because they’re in the eighth and they’ve been in the eighth spot for a while. They’ve earned that. You can’t take anything away from Memphis. They play hard, they’re exciting and they’ve got a lot of young talent. The Lakers would have their hands full playing against them. Memphis beat the Lakers this year. Memphis would have nothing to lose. I feel like both series could be a little bit hectic for the Lakers, but I think more so us, because of the experience and where we are in our careers. Not too long ago, we played them in L.A. and obviously I had a great game and we won a close one, and in the playoffs, I’m sure they would come up with some type of game plan to not allow that to happen. But I want to compete. That’s what we want.”
It will be interesting to see if the league takes comments from one of its star players into account before finalizing their plans for the remainder of the season.
Regardless of the format, whoever the Lakers play in the first round will be a huge underdog, having their hands full with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.