By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
Walt Disney World in Orlando isn’t going to welcome the throngs of tourists this year that it normally does, but soon it will be as lit as ever given that the NBA has confirmed its schedule to finish the 2019-20 season at its Wide World of Sports complex.
Society is craving for pro sports right now like ice water in the middle of a desert, and with the unexpected circumstances, for better or worse on and off the court, the NBA will have the chance to revive a relinquished sports world. Re-opening night is going to be special, but the ace for the eight seed in the West is going to be the most competitive situation to look out for.
Utah Jazz vs New Orleans Pelicans – The Jazz have been up and down as the recent tension between their two cornerstone franchise players in Donavan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert heated up due to both players contracting COVID-19 from each other.
However, ESPN’s Eric Woodyard told WARR Media recently he has faith that Mitchell and Gobert can push personal feelings aside things aside to compete for a championship. It will be tough to do now with the absence of their sixth man Bojan Bogdanovic due to wrist surgery, but anything is possible with the neutral playing field in the bubble.
The Pelicans will be exhilarating to watch due to a healthy Zion Williamson. The team’s offensive style of play fits well with Williamson, and Williamson is reportedly going to shock the world when he steps into the 4 lines inside Disney World’s basketball complex. The Pelicans are currently sitting tenth in the West, only 4 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies. The Pelicans may not make the playoffs, but at least we can see Zion put on a show for eight games starting with revised opening night.
LA Clippers vs LA Lakers – It’s going to be a West Coast showdown as the crosstown rivalry will be shipped to the neutral site. This go around is going to be interesting due to everyone being fully healthy. This additional rest assisted an ailing Clippers team that has been nagged with injuries all season long, and now all their best players, including Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, will be fully healthy. Their veteran play will play a huge factor in this bubble tournament, and the fact that they still have one of the deepest benches in the league, a strong case is presented for them to not only put on a show for Opening Night, but also win the championship.
Although the Clippers have championship experience in both coaching and players perspectives, the Lakers have history of championships to help aid their already championship level talents. Spear-heading this year’s movement with LeBron James and Anthony Davis is something you cannot count out. The bubble team will look a little different from the regular season with Avery Bradley opting out of returning to the team, but his replacement in JR Smith is a beneficial asset due to his championship experience and relationship with King James during their time together in Cleveland.
Smith may not be a better defender than Bradley, but he is a better scorer and shooter, which is something James always needs when it comes to his championship teams. The Lakers have already experienced some ups and downs with COVID-19 and the unexpected and unfortunate death of Laker legend Kobe Bryant, but James is determined to win a championship, and you never doubt the King of the Finals when it comes to James. The time is now, and James smells it like a shark smelling blood in the water. That is something you do not want to be against.
Western Conference No. 8 Seed – The Western Conference has arguably been the toughest conference in the league overall compared to the Eastern Conference, but the beauty of this bubble is the fact that anything is up for grabs. The Western Conference has 4 teams fighting for the eight spot (Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, Portland Trailblazers and New Orleans Pelicans), with the Grizzlies currently hold that spot.
The Grizzlies clearly deserve the current position they are in due to the rise of the future duo featuring Rookie of the Year candidate Ja Morant and sophomore forward Jaren Jackson Jr. However, the Kings and Portland Trailblazers will be ready to snatch the eight seed from the Grizzlies if they can.
Damian Lillard will be fully healthy to participate in the bubble, and you can never count out the reigning Western Conference Finalists with CJ McCollum Carmelo Anthony as Lillard’s backcourt mates and the depth in the front court featuring Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside. Not to mention they also just signed NBA G-League MVP runner up and UCONN standout Jaylen Adams to replace Trevor Ariza, who opted out of the bubble. The Kings backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield can be electric with Harrison Barnes and their new assets of Jabari Parker, Alex Lin and Corey Brewer.
This NBA season is up for grabs and against all odds the NBA has provided itself with a platform and the games to entertain us through the remainder of the summer.
It should be a great chase toward the championship, and this year’s championship will mean a lot to the winning franchise as well as the league’s fans as the revival of the NBA not only helps bring excitement back to sports, but also political support during a time of unrest where the larger society is slowly catching up to a league that long has showcased the belief that Black Lives Matter.
Opening night tips off July 30 at 6:30 ET (5:30 PM CT) on TNT.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media