Real talk from Damian Lillard: if the NBA regular season has fewer than 82 games and doesn’t expand the playoffs, some players are going to refuse to play.
NBA fans have the right to be buoyed by the news that players association executive director Michelle Roberts intends to speak with all 30 teams about potentially resuming the 2019-20 regular season at Disney World in Orlando. There are a million logistical points to hammer out to assure health and safety, but the development surely makes it feel as if actual live basketball games really are within reach.
Unfortunately, at least one superstar has significant concerns about picking up the season without giving teams outside the current playoff picture a legitimate fighting chance, per Yahoo’s Chris Haynes.
Damian Lillard said he won’t play a resumed regular season if Portland can’t make the playoffs.
Folks, NBA basketball without Dame ain’t really NBA basketball.
Among the proposed plans for resuming the league is an option to shorten the regular season noticeably, including from 82 to 70 games. Lillard’s Portland Trail Blazers, currently 3.5 games out of the final Western Conference playoff spot, have to go on a bit of a run. And if there’s no real chance to do that thanks to a curtailed campaign, he wants no part of it.
That’s a serious headache for the league and the NBPA.
The easiest solution in the case of a regular-season only playing out 70-ish games? Expanding the playoff field to include some kind of play-in scenario for teams outside the final eight in each conference. It’s all up in the air at the moment, however, and Lillard has made it clear that if the league cannot stick the landing here, they’ll be forced to take some preventable blows right on the chin.