The next item on the docket for the NBA is figuring out how to arrange an ad-hoc schedule, something that a team of people in league offices across pro sports typically spend their entire job working on. A report from Vincent Goodwill presented one possibility for the league, but a light was quickly shined on the difficulties with even the most simple plans.
The plan is for teams to continue their schedule as planned, with the next 8 games. If team is scheduled to play Hawks/Bulls/Pistons, it moves onto the next game on schedule, league sources tell Yahoo Sports
— Vincent Goodwill (@VinceGoodwill) June 3, 2020
Sounds easy enough, right? If you play the eight teams who aren’t in Orlando, just skip that game and move on. The only problem is some teams, especially in the Western Conference, are more loaded up with scheduled games against teams who will be in Orlando, while others, especially in the East, are going to be skipping around a lot.
This was initially brought up by Dan Feldman of NBC Sports, who found an example involving the Raptors and Rockets.
Rockets' eighth game would be against the Raptors, but Raptors would have had eight games before reaching that point in their schedule. Just one example, but I don't see how this could work. https://t.co/gjQPUx4x2U
— Dan Feldman (@DanFeldmanNBA) June 3, 2020
It doesn’t take long to find other, similar situations. The Spurs’ eighth game under these rules would come against New Orleans, originally scheduled for April 5. Yet the Pelicans’ eighth game is scheduled to be against the Magic, two full games before they would be scheduled to take on San Antonio.
Keith Parish of the Fastbreak Breakfast podcast worked out the math for all of us on the bubble teams in the West and pointed out another scheduling issue for the Blazers and Grizzlies.
If teams are to continue with their original schedule as @VinceGoodwill is saying, these would be next 8 games for West bubble teams
ps note that it doesn't completely work out (red highlights)
— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) June 3, 2020
Sure, this may sound like semantics, but the NBA will quickly get backed into a corner in which there just aren’t enough teams to pull this off. Fortunately, this won’t involve travel, so putting something creative together would be easier than usual, but the priority of course is making sure everyone can play the same amount of games, while trying to keep previous strength of schedule intact.
The obvious solution would be for the NBA to just put out a full schedule soon, whether it includes these machinations or not. We don’t necessarily need to be privy to how it was put together, so long as it’s not overly taxing and it is fair to all parties. Weeding out the tankers will already make these games more competitive and interesting. It’s going to be good teams up against good teams every night.
There are likely a few weeks to sort the schedule out, but it has ripple effects for broadcasters, the use of gyms, and social distancing procedures to ensure teams aren’t coming into contact with one another unnecessarily.