The NBA is back. Kind of.
The league is facing their version of a new normal. In their words, it’s a whole new game for everyone. What wonders will the Disney Bubble bring to the teams, players, fans and even the league itself?
In the age of COVID-19, for most people, “time” became less like “TIME” and more like “tImEy-WimeY jEr3mY bE@r1mY.” Due to community quarantines keeping people inside, the information that clocks provided was less concrete, and more like a gentle suggestion. People binged Avatar, ate sushi bakes, baked their own bread, and tried to keep succulents alive. Sometimes, they did all of the above. Sometimes, they even did so when the sun was out.
This period of temporal malleability was not meant to last forever though. For sports leagues, including the NBA, schedules were drawn up, return bubbles plotted, and tournaments set to resume. For fans of said sports leagues, it meant setting alarms again, to watch the fare that was back on the menu. As highlight reels begin to be repopulated, and game results ping in to notify your cellular device, “time” stops melting, re-solidifying back into a concrete mass. And that ticking sound? It’s back, and getting louder and louder.
Especially for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The reigning MVP, and the presumed repeat-MVP winner, is still set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. It might not be in the summer of 2021, depending on how schedules shift forward, but the concept is crystal in its clarity: after this Disney Bubble postseason, the Greek Freak will have one more campaign with the team that selected him with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, before hitting the open market. If the Bucks don’t give him enough reasons to stick around, a combination of money, and say, an NBA championship, Giannis could very well find himself in a different uniform in a little over a calendar year.
For a while, everything had been on hold. Everything was in the air. But there are schedules now. Scrimmages have been played. And so long as the bubble holds, a champion to the 2019-20 season will be crowned. The Bucks are hoping it will be them, in order to better their chances of keeping Mr. Alphabet.
Prior to the season being put on pause, the Milwaukee Bucks were rolling. They were a league-best 53-12, with the top Net Rating (10.7, thanks in large part to a 101.6 Defensive Rating, also leading in the Association). But burrow down to the micro, and things were beginning to turn sour – they had lost their last three games, including a marquee match-up against the best of the West, the LA Lakers. After the defeat to LeBron James and company, Giannis sat out the next two matches, due to a knee issue. Had things gone differently, this could have led to a dive in the team’s fortunes. LeBron could have rebuilt his MVP case. There might have been whispers about the inability of the Bucks to surround Giannis with a decent supporting cast.
All that didn’t happen. Time instead came to a screeching halt. Giannis got to rest his knee. Running-mate Khris Middleton got to avoid touching a basketball for an extended period. The Lopez Brothers did Lopez Brothers things. Now they’re all in Orlando (Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton are expected to be back with the squad by the time the seeding games begin), and the league has announced that for awards purposes, voters should only look at games prior to the break. Sorry about that, King.
There was a period where time had slowed to a crawl, enough for people to have Zoom e-numan sessions, and landscape an island of talking animals. That period is gone. Time is ramping up anew, and gaining momentum. Blink, and you might miss basketball with seeding on the line. Blink anew, and you might have the first round of the Playoffs flash by. Take a quick nap, and by the time you rouse yourself, confetti might be falling, and Stephen A. will be debating the merits of a socially-distant parade route.
For the Bucks organization, it’s time once more to put their best foot forward. It’s time to show Giannis that there are plenty of reasons to stay amidst the cheeseheads.
For the other 29 teams, another, different timer has come back online: the countdown to courtship, of wooing Giannis to get freaky in another locale. It’s a timer the Deer would love to pause, permanently.
Back in the Bubble