The NBA playoffs were scheduled to begin today.
As the standings are now, these would’ve been weekend games: Milwaukee and Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Orlando in the first round, and Boston vs. Philadelphia in another first-round series. The Western Conference was (is?) loaded with compelling matchups: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Memphis, Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas, Denver vs. Houston, Utah vs. Oklahoma City.
Who knows, maybe Zion Williamson would’ve helped New Orleans overcome a 3½-game deficit and get into the playoffs and play the Lakers.
But none of that is happening. It may happen. But right now, we remain without games. And may stay that way, too. No one knows.
A year ago, the Raptors opened the playoffs with a loss to Orlando, trailed Philadelphia 2-1 in the conference semifinals and fell behind 2-0 to Milwaukee in the conference finals before beating Golden State for the title.
Will the Raptors get a chance to defend their title this season?
Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet during the second half of the closeout Game 6 in the 2019 NBA Finals. (Photo: Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports)
The NBA is committed to finishing the season one way or another — brief conclusion to regular season or straight to the playoffs, who knows? — but it’s not something the league fully controls.
Even if the league settles on a plan — such as fanless games at a single site for the remainder of the season, playoffs included — the players must agree to the plan. It’s an issue collectively bargained by both the league and the players. The league can’t force players to play in conditions in which they don’t feel safe.
And NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Friday also made clear “the safety, health, and well-being of our players, coaches, fans, everyone involved in our game is paramount,” he told reporters on a conference call.
Silver said: “We are not in a position to make any decisions, and it’s unclear when we will be.”
Maybe the season returns. Maybe it doesn’t. It’s all on the table in a wait-and-see game. One thing to share: Teams and the league are having discussions about allowing players back to practice facilities on a limited basis — just 1-2 players at a time. But don't take that as a sign of optimism either.
The NBA on Friday also took steps, in agreement with the National Basketball Players Association, to withhold 25% of player salaries beginning with May 15 paychecks.
And while basketball and sports fans are hoping the NBA can return to finish the season, it’s also reasonable to prepare for the possibility that there is no conclusion to this season and the next time we see NBA games will be part of the 2020-21 season.
Story time! Here are some of our best
THE LAST DANCE:How NBA got unprecedented access to Michael Jordan and Bulls
MORE MJ: Documentary producer says public will see different side of His Airness
NO. 1: Sabrina Ionescu goes first overall in the WNBA draft
MOVING MOMENT: Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli, and Payton Chester named honorary draft picks by WNBA
#WOFH: How Utah instructor went viral with her Zumba workout
CFB SURVEY:Examining the age range of FBS staffs
FUTURE 'UNCLEAR': Adam Silver discusses NBA's potential return
VON MILLER: Broncos star discusses his coronavirus diagnosis
HELPING HOME: Bismack Biyombo, through his charitable foundation, is giving $1 million in medical supplies to hospitals and clinics in the Congo
This day in sports history: April 18
1942: The Toronto Maple Leafs defeat the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, becoming the first NHL team to overcome a 3-0 series deficit.
1959: The Montreal Canadiens capture the Stanley Cup for the fourth year in a row.
1962: The Boston Celtics win the NBA title, their fourth in a row, with a dramatic 110-107 Game 7 overtime victory against the Los Angeles Lakers.
1963: The Maple Leafs win their second straight Stanley Cup.
1987: Phillies great Mike Schmidt hits his 500th career home run, just the 14th player to have hit the milestone at the time.
1998: Peyton Manning is selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the first pick in the NFL draft.
1999: Wayne Gretzky plays his final NHL game.
Sports video of the day
This clip of Schmidt's 500th home run is full of 1980s baseball goodness. The uniforms! The Three Rivers Stadium astroturf! The celebrations! An excellent call by the legendary Harry Kalas!
What to watch
If you’re a Washington Nationals fan, you’ll love this MLB Network lineup from the 2019 playoffs, starting at 10:30 a.m. ET: Game 5, National League Division Series, Nationals-Los Angeles Dodgers; Game 3 NLCS, Nationals-St. Louis; Game 4 NLCS, Nationals-St. Louis; Game 1 World Series, Nationals-Houston; and Game 7 World Series, Nationals-Houston
Some classic heavyweight fights all day on ESPN: Muhammad Ali-George Foreman, 1974 (12 p.m. ET); Mike Tyson-Larry Holmes (5 p.m. ET) and Mike Tyson-Michael Spinks (5:30 p.m.), 1988; Sonny Liston-Cassius Clay, 1964 (6 p.m. ET); Ali-Joe Frazier, 1971 (7 p.m. ET).
NBA TV has Oklahoma City-San Antonio, Game 6 of 2012 Western Conference finals (9 p.m. ET); Miami-Boston, Games 6 and 7 of 2012 Eastern Conference finals (10 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. ET).
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