With the NBA on the cusp of a approving an official return-to-play plan, it’s now known that all teams involved will be packing their bags and heading to Walt Disney World in Orlando.
To maintain safety measures during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, all games will be played at a single location without fans in attendance. While this seems great on the surface, one issue that has been largely untouched is that of home-court advantage.
With the 2020 NBA Playoffs happening at a single site with no fans, teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks — who spent six months fighting for a No. 1 seed in their respective conferences — will now lose advantages that come with that.
Because of this, top teams reportedly been looking into creative and unique ways to solve the problem, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
Executives from the teams that would host a first-round series in the playoffs told ESPN that they had internal discussions within their own front offices about reviving their home-court advantage in some fashion, and that some have already shared ideas with other teams in the same situation with the hopes of having an ally when making an appeal to the league.
The considerations range from something simple like receiving possession at the beginning of every quarter to more intricate ones like top-seeded teams getting first selection on a hotel:
The higher-seeded team being awarded the first possession of the second, third and fourth quarters, following the traditional jump ball to begin the game.
The higher-seeded team being allowed to designate one player to be able to be whistled for seven fouls instead of six before fouling out.
The higher-seeded team receiving an extra coach’s challenge.
The higher-seeded teams being able to transport their actual hardwood home court from their home arenas to Orlando to try to preserve the feel of their home playing experience.
An off-court feature in which playoff teams, in order of seeding 1-16, receive first dibs on picking which hotel they will stay at in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Disney World Resort
Another “radical” idea pessimistically floated in background discussions, one Western Conference executive told ESPN, would be allowing the higher seed to pick its first-round opponent.
These are all very interesting ideas, as they would help slightly in making up for the lack of home fans. The hotel idea is especially interesting, as it could be an experiment on the effect of sleep and comfort on performance.
However, it’s unlikely that many of these will become reality, mainly because the NBA has so many other things to focus on. The two that seem like the easiest changes are the extra coach’s challenge and the hotel idea, as neither require a changing of the rules of basketball and neither have extensive pre-work like shipping an entire home court.
If the NBA were to let teams pick their hotels based on seeding — with the No. 1 seeds going first and then continuing down the line — it would probably give teams just enough of an advantage to make up for home court.