NBA targeting October finish for virus-hit season

Adam Silver. (AFP)
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Updated 03 June 2020

NBA targeting October finish for virus-hit season

  • The NBA and NBA Players Association are still finalizing the details of the resumption of the season

LOS ANGELES: The NBA is aiming to complete the 2020 season by mid-October, reports said Tuesday, as the league edges toward a return from the coronavirus shutdown.

ESPN reported that according to a time frame due to be voted on by NBA’s Board of Governors on Thursday, Game 7 of the NBA Finals would take place no later than Oct. 12.

The NBA and NBA Players Association are still finalizing the details of the resumption of the season, which was halted on March 11 as the coronavirus pandemic erupted.

ESPN reported that the league is planning a 22-team format for its return to play on July 31.

All games are expected to be within the confines of Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando Florida, with all teams remaining on site to minimize risk of COVID-19 outbreaks.

The NBA’s proposal to be put before the board on Thursday requires support from three quarters of the league’s 30 teams in order to be approved.

ESPN reported there was overwhelming support for the plan being recommended by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

One of the key issues to be settled is the format of the competition which will determine the final lineup for the 16-team playoffs.

Six teams currently just outside the playoff places will be included in the 22-team field and given the opportunity to claim a playoff berth.

If approved, the format will bring an abrupt end to the season for eight teams languishing outside the top 22.

Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said Tuesday exclusion from the restarted season would hurt his young team.

“The biggest thing we can benefit from is playing basketball,” Pierce said. “If the season is going to resume and we are not a part of it, it hurts our growth, it hurts our product, it hurts our ability to continue the momentum that we need going to next season.

“I play young guys, I have young guys — we need to play basketball.”

The restart is expected to include a two-week quarantine for players in their home cities, one to two weeks of workouts at team facilities followed by two-week training camps.

The regular season was halted abruptly after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive. Gobert, of France, was given the all-clear about two weeks later.

So far, less than a dozen NBA players have been confirmed as testing positive for the coronavirus although not all have been identified.


Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

Updated 14 July 2020

Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

  • The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place

LONDON: Manchester City’s success in overturning its Champions League ban on Monday has huge ramifications on the Premier League and the remaining two teams that will qualify for Europe’s top club competition.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester — and maybe Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United, too — are now fighting for two qualifying spots instead of three with two weeks of the season remaining.

The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place, in earning tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money next season.

The most concerned team is likely to be Leicester.

In the top four since September — and, in December, even looking like the most realistic title challenger to Liverpool — Leicester have imploded, collecting only two wins from their last 11 league games stretching back to the end of January.

After losing to relegation-threatened Bournemouth 4-1 on Sunday, Leicester will find themselves  in fifth place if Man United beat  Southampton on Monday.

United appears much more likely to secure a top-four finish and return to the Champions League after a season’s absence.

With four straight wins ahead of the Southampton game, United are the form team in the league and also has the most benign remaining schedule with upcoming matches against Crystal Palace and West Ham before what could be a winner-takes-all game game at Leicester on the final weekend of the season.

Making it all the more intriguing is the fact that another final-day match is between Chelsea and Wolves.

Chelsea is currently in third place, one point ahead of Leicester, but will drop into fourth if United beat  Southampton.

A victory over already-relegated Norwich on Tuesday appears pivotal for Chelsea, considering its last two games are at Liverpool — a team chasing records to cap its title-winning season — and then Wolves, who have gained a reputation for beating the top teams over the last two years.

Wolves are in sixth place, four points off the top four, so the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has come as a blow to their Champions League ambitions.

Indeed, Wolves’ best chance of qualifying for the competition is now to win the Europa League, which earns entry to the Champions League. The team coached by Nuno Espirito Santo has reached the last 16 of the Europa League and will play the second leg of its match against Olympiakos next month, with the score at 1-1 after the first leg.

Likewise, seventh-place Sheffield United needed City to lose its appeal at sport’s highest court to stand a realistic chance of a finish in the Champions League positions, a prospect that would have seemed fanciful for a team that was widely tipped for relegation at the start of the season.

Europa League qualification will be Sheffield United’s target now, with seventh place possibly earning that reward if Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea win the FA Cup.