The NBA seems all but certain to return on July 31st with an official announcement likely coming within the next 24 hours. The blueprint for the league’s return from a four-month coronavirus hiatus is mostly in place. We know games will be held at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports facility at Disney World with 22 of the league’s 30 teams making the trip to Orlando. The remaining teams will play eight regular-season games before advancing to the postseason. Game 7 of the NBA Finals, if necessary, would be held on October 12th.
However, one important obstacle remains. With the NBA staging neutral-site games in empty arenas for the remainder of 2019-20, how will teams that earned home-court advantage be rewarded for their efforts? On the surface, it would seem impossible, though that hasn’t stopped teams from proposing creative solutions to the NBA’s new home-court conundrum. While none of these scenarios are likely—it would take a two-thirds vote among the league’s Board of Governors to pass—if any of the resolutions actually came to fruition, they would certainly spice up the postseason.
Per Dave McMenamin of ESPN, one proposal includes designating a player from the higher-seeded team to be allowed seven fouls (six is grounds for disqualification under the league’s usual guidelines). Another calls for the higher-seeded team to receive an extra coach’s challenge during games. Other suggestions for home-court include awarding the higher-seeded team possession at the beginning of the second, third and fourth quarters, providing top seeds their choice of hotel accommodations at the Walt Disney Resort and even allowing teams to transport their literal home floors to Orlando to give playoff matchups an added layer of authenticity.
As fun as these scenarios sound on paper, teams aren’t holding their breath. “I do think the NBA cares about it,” an Eastern Conference source told ESPN on the condition of anonymity. “I do not think it’s a top priority for them.” The most radical proposal would allow top-seeded teams to choose their first-round opponent. Predictably, that idea hasn’t gained much traction.
“Picking your opponent can lead to bad karma,” said another unnamed Eastern Conference exec. “You can offend the basketball gods.” There’s no harm in throwing out ideas, but in all likelihood, this year’s playoffs will be devoid of any tangible home-court advantage. It’s a missed opportunity for teams like the Lakers and Bucks, who cruised through the regular season, but in a post-COVID NBA, the league has to pick its battles.