With the NBA restart and playoffs all taking place within a bubble at Walt Disney World, the concept of home-court advantage has essentially been thrown away.
It disproportionately affects the No. 1 seeded Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks, as the two have lost their reward for having the best records in their respective conferences during the regular season.
The league has done some things to remedy this, like virtual fans who support the designated home team and in-arena announcers giving the home team more energetic introductions. However, there is just no replacement for the real thing.
It became especially noticeable in the Lakers Game 1 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Following Damian Lillard hitting a huge, eventually game-clinching 3-pointer, Too Short’s “Blow the Whistle” was played by the DJ working that game. The hip-hop classic from 2006 has been directly tied to the city of Oakland, where Lillard is native to.
The NBA is now taking steps to ensure that visiting teams and road players do not get music that has ties to them in order to maintain fairness to the “home” teams, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports:
Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard and other “visiting” stars will no longer hear music or tracks they’re known to enjoy while playing in “road” games in the bubble, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Moving forward, sources said, emphasis will be placed on going through playlists to make sure certain tracks aren’t iconic to the “visiting” team or to opposing star players who are supposed to be on the “road.”
Music is handled by one of three team DJs who have been assigned to work games within the bubble:
Three official team-employed DJs and one who assists the L.A. Clippers were picked for the 22-team restart in the Disney bubble, and they rotate in shifts to work every game. The DJs: DJ Shawna (Milwaukee Bucks), DJ M.I.L. (Brooklyn Nets) and DJ Paws (Denver Nuggets). DJ AK of the Clippers departed after the seeding games.
Because only three team DJs are currently in the bubble, the only concrete rule is that those three teams can not have their specific DJ working what would be a “road” game. Other than that, putting emphasis on songs native to the home team’s city is likely the best the league can do.
While it’s impossible to bring home-court advantage to a bubble, the best the league can do is avoid the road team being given potential advantages, even if it’s marginal and in quick comfort only, such as was the case with Lillard. Even though it had zero impact on the outcome of the game, it certainly created a strange atmosphere in what should have been a Lakers home game.
Top-seeded teams looked into potential home court advantage replacements
The Lakers, Bucks, and other top-seeded teams — prior to entering the bubble — reportedly looked into potential ways that they could be rewarded for their strong play during the regular season.
Some options actually came to fruition, like giving higher seeds the nicer hotels that are closer to the arenas. However, others — such as having a designated player be afforded seven fouls for home teams — were not considered.
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