The NBA is having a party at Disney World and everyone’s invited. Okay, not everyone. No fans will be present and the league’s bottom eight teams by record—the Bulls, Cavaliers, Hawks, Hornets, Knicks, Pistons, Timberwolves and Warriors—also didn’t make the invite list. Rather than pack it in and wait for next season, many of the league’s non-playoff squads are already eyeing creative ways to get reps amid an unprecedented layoff.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, teams that didn’t qualify for Orlando have discussed the prospect of holding joint practices this summer with an eye toward playing as many as three televised games during regional minicamps in August. The Cavaliers and Pistons, who are geographically separated by roughly 170 miles (about a two-and-a-half-hour drive), in particular have shown an interest in practicing together while the rest of the league completes its season in Orlando.
A number of proposals have already been submitted with voluntary workouts in July and organized team activities (OTAs) in September among many ideas the league will reportedly consider. Teams left off the NBA’s Orlando guest list are also campaigning to begin their training camps 7-10 days earlier, citing what could be a nine-month layoff between their final game of 2019-20 (no team has played since March 11) and the start of next season, tentatively slated for December 1.
Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce spoke out against the league’s 22-team restart (approved by both the players association and the league’s Board of Governors earlier this week), feeling it puts young teams like his own at a significant disadvantage. “I coach the youngest team in the NBA,” Pierce explained to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “The biggest thing we can benefit from is playing basketball and the game has been taken away from all of us at this point." Pierce and others in his position are understandably worried about rust, but gathering together for joint practices (which are seen frequently in the NFL) over the summer could alleviate some of those concerns.
“Not playing for eight months puts us in a competitive disadvantage, but again, I think there are creative ways to do so,” offered Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas. “Collectively, I think these eight teams we're getting now on calls and we have conversations of how we can develop our players and how we can have structure in place to get some practicing and possibly some scrimmaging in the offseason to catch up to the teams that are going to be playing.”
While teams are busy orchestrating ways for their players to ward off rust, many have already taken the initiative including Hawks All-Star Trae Young, who has kept his game sharp by suiting up for a summer-league team in his native Oklahoma.