Charlotte Hornets: Why Non-Playoff Teams Should Still want to Play

Commissioner Adam Silver. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Commissioner Adam Silver. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Ever since the infamous night that the NBA’s season abruptly ended, Commissioner Adam Silver has been adamant in saying that every possibility for a return to play is on the table. Here are a few reasons why the Charlotte Hornets should be motivated to continue playing.

A persistent worry amongst teams like the Charlotte Hornets that are projected not to be playoff-bound, is if it is worth it to play the last several games of the regular season? At the stoppage of regular season play, most teams had completed between 63 and 66 regular-season games.

Many have ruled out the possibility of getting to that full, 82 game mark. However, a more realistic option, according to reports, is completing a more modest 70 game regular season before venturing into the playoffs.

Thus, the question must be presented; what motivation is there on anybody’s part for non-playoff teams to complete several seemingly pointless regular-season games? For starters, the league and team higher-ups have clear monetary incentives.

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Once most franchises hit the 70 game mark, the league will be able to collect 100% of revenue from regional sports networks. Furthermore, some playoff team executives see those final several games as a way for team personnel to get back into the swing of an NBA season. With many players having been without a hoop for several months, this warmup time is ultimately important.

However, this still doesn’t solve the issue of lottery-bound teams failing to find that inspiration to play. Why would Malik Monk or Miles Bridges quarantine in a neutral, bubble-esque site for several weeks to play a few games that present no possibility of advancing towards a championship?

It may surprise some to hear that representatives from such teams are extremely open to the idea. Of course, we can’t generalize the population of players on teams with sub .500 records from this sample. However, Larry Nance Jr., for example, could spearhead a return to play for these eliminated teams. In a quote from a recent, Kevin O’Connor Ringer article, the Cavaliers forward said, “I’m excited to get some reps. I want the year to come back. I’m not gonna act like I know if we will, but I just really hope we do.”

Another Cavs forward, Kevin Love, also had some positive feedback for reporters. Cleveland was one of the few franchises who, on Friday, took a step towards normalcy. The team opened its practice facility for regulated, individual workouts about which Love said, “I feel like anybody who needs an escape or in everyday life is looking for any type of normalcy back doing something they love…. So for me, it was definitely a dopamine hit, and it just felt great to get in there…. Actually shooting was pretty uplifting.”

Hawks star, Trae Young, has been another notable player to lament the league’s shutdown. A string of tweets from the sharp-shooter capped off by a simple, “miss it” in response to a highlight tape of his signifies a desire for him and his lottery-bound team to continue playing.

In-regards-to Buzz City, most players have been fairly mum on the issue. However, Cody Zeller has been a rare exception. Zeller has, in fact, been one of the most vocal league representatives during this trying time, most notably having taken over the NBA’s main Instagram account for a few hours to interact with fans.

In an extremely transparent interview conducted by a blog associated with his alma mater, Indiana University, he spoke about his perspective on a return to play. “I hope that we can get back to playing. I don’t know what that would look like for us, specifically. If we have to have a little bit of a training camp or two or three weeks to get us back into shape and rhythm.” This fairly positive stance was followed by a few pressing questions that most fans have, “for us, a team that is not going to be in the playoffs, are we going to play three, four or five games and then the playoffs start, and we’re done? Or what would that look like?”

These questions have clearly been pondered by most NBA fans. Luckily, the league has some of the brightest people in the country working on them. The NBA’s cast of owners presents some of the most innovative and creative entrepreneurs in the world who are likely chomping at the bit to critically solve the problems at hand.

In fact, some have presented a few interesting answers to those questions that Zeller presented. Most excitingly, a few people in the know have speculated that these unique circumstances will present the league with the opportunity to try some funky ideas that have been kicked around for a long time.

One idea that may be of interest to Hornets nation, in particular, is a postseason play-in tournament. Such a tournament would be a single-elimination style, round-robin showdown for the eighth seed. Most notably, ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported even before the COVID-19 craziness that this was something that the league had been discussing for some time.

This would be the perfect solution for teams that are not in contention for the playoffs. However, there has been some debate over the format of this idea. The most popular option historically has recently been endorsed by Clippers head coach, Doc Rivers. It suggests that the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth seeds would have two single-elimination games to determine the final two playoff spots.

Most pertinently, Silver said during a groundbreaking call with league and player representatives Friday that the possibility of a play-in tournament is ‘open.’ Particularly, he said this would be to, ‘accommodate more teams.’ This clearly wasn’t the first time this idea was on his mind. In a day in age where the unimaginable has occurred, perhaps Silver will go full mad scientist and attempt such a unique stipulation in postseason play.

Some have proposed a larger play-in tournament for the eighth seed that could involve up to six teams. Most brazenly, the Ringer’s, Bill Simmons, has been a huge proponent of what he coined as the, ‘entertaining as hell tournament’ which involves all 14 lottery teams battling it out for that final playoff spot. Nonetheless, the Charlotte Hornets, who are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference standings, would benefit from the implementation of this tournament in the short and long term.

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Short term, it would provide the Hornets with that much-needed motivation by having a shot at returning to the playoffs as soon as this season. In the long run, the Hornets seem to like that 35 wins, 10th place finish. A permanent implementation of a play-in tournament would make these placings more palatable, to say the least.

Finally, there is certainly something to be said for the sense of community every team committing to continue play would foster. It has been said time and time again; the NBA is a family. In what other professional league does one see an outpouring of support, such as when an NBA player sustains a tragic, major injury. In a league that features players who support each other an immense amount, it would be surprising if a safe return to play was not taken advantage of by all 30 franchises.

If not for their fellow players, then they should do it for the sports-viewing public at large. The state of Florida deemed professional sports ‘essential’ in the middle of April.

While it’s hard to compare the NBA to industries that provide basic needs such as farming, it is arguable that a full commitment to professional sports returning would greatly brighten up the lives of many around the world. If this requires implementing a few ‘meaningless’ games for players to warm-up, the lottery-bound teams should embrace that opportunity to be back on the court.

When it comes to decisions this large, it is imperative from a public relations perspective to have everyone on the same page. Even with the safest of measures in place (without which the league simply would not sign off), one executive or player speaking out will feed the ‘haters’ crowd, thus fueling the fire for a large amount of backlash from the public at large. From the Bucks to the Warriors, unity will simply be key in pushing forward the NBA’s return.

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Finally, if the environment were safe, who wouldn’t want to see what James Borrego has up sleeve next coming off of an optimism inducing pre-shutdown stretch of games?