Hooping In Disney: Nets Edition
As of June 4th, the NBA's multi-month hiatus officially has an end date. The NBA's Board of Governors reviewed Adam Silver's proposal for a 22-team, 8-game regular season finish in Orlando's Disney World property and ESPN Wide World of Sports complex to give the top two-thirds of the league a chance to finish out their 2019-2020 campaign.
Of the 22 teams, all 16 teams currently in a playoff spot received an invite to Disney, as well as the next six-best teams based on win-percentage, to give those outsiders a fair opportunity at a postseason run and to generate additional revenue during a season when the NBA has suffered from bad ratings and a preseason dispute in China.
Each NBA team will play eight "seeding games" against other competitors at Disney World to determine the standings before the playoffs begin. If the ninth-seeded team is at least four games within the eighth-seeded team, they will face off in a "play-in tournament" consisting of two games; the ninth-seeded team must win both to advance.
With a plan for the NBA's return, how does this once-in-a lifetime development impact the Brooklyn Nets? Kevin Durant has announced that his highly anticipated return will not come to fruition in an interview with Marc Spears, and Kyrie Irving is not expected to return according to Adrian Wojnarowski. Although a Cinderella-like title run is all but out of the question, what should Nets fans be looking out for during the renewed season in Orlando?
How good is Chris Chiozza?
Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020: On what was supposed to be Kyrie Irving's second shot at a Boston homecoming ended up being Caris LeVert's coming out party. All seemed lost midway through the third quarter with the Nets facing a double-digit deficit at TD Garden, only for Caris LeVert to explode and drop 37 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, totalling 51 on the night. However, a potentially overlooked contributor was Chris Chiozza, AKA "Cheese," who checked into the game midway through the third quarter and provided the spark the Nets needed to end the game victorious. Chiozza, who had previously only seen garbage time minutes up to that point, continued to make the most of his opportunity and earned himself a spot in the rotation with excellent creation, hustle, and shooting.
All year, the Nets have had an issue with the backup point-guard position due to All-Star Kyrie Irving's absence, not only thrusting career-long backup Spencer Dinwiddie into a starting role, but experimenting with insufficient options such as Theo Pinson and Dzanan Musa, and forcing Garrett Temple out of position. Chiozza showed in his small sample size of only 11 games that he deserves a seat at the table, impressively posting numbers to the tune of 16 points and six assists per 36 minutes while shooting 44% from behind the line. Is he a fluke, or another diamond in the rough found by Brooklyn? Only time –– and experience –– will tell.
What will Kyrie Irving be up to?
Kyrie Irving has been abuzz in headlines recently, stemming from his advocacy for cancelling the remainder of the season. He cited a need to keep the country focused on prominent social issues at hand and cautioned his NBAPA teammates about the threat of the NBA becoming a “distraction.” Alongside the Lakers’ Avery Bradley and Dwight Howard, Irving has helped the NBA implement Black Lives Matter messaging into the Orlando restart.
Prior to his radical anti-bubble stance, Irving reportedly wanted to join his team in the bubble as support, but the jury seems split on this front. Brian Windhorst and Bobby Marks have both been adamant that injured players will not be able to be in the bubble for safety reasons, but this seems to still be unclear. Technically, Brooklyn could name Irving as 1 of 35 members of the traveling party. However, Shams Charania has reported that the required conditions for the traveling party are: athletic trainer, strength/conditioning coach, equipment manager and team security official.
Evidently, this means if Kyrie wanted to travel to Disney, he would have to do so as an inactive player. Even if this seems counter-intuitive to the idea of the bubble –– a strategy put in place for only active players and personnel –– it's not impossible. Phoenix Suns wing Kelly Oubre Jr. recently announced he will miss the rest of the season rehabbing after knee surgery, but will still travel to the Orlando bubble. This leads one to infer Irving can do the same.
You may be asking, why does this even matter? If Kyrie Irving isn't going to be playing, why should I even care? One word: Tampering. We know that Kyrie Irving has tampered in the past, recruiting Durant to the Nets and coming to an agreement with the team before it was legal. The NBA will usually turn a blind eye to this behavior unless egregious, and the Disney campus is poised to be rampant with tampering. The New York Daily News has reported that the Nets have shown interest in Bradley Beal, and many believe that a push in the right direction by Brooklyn's stars could make an offseason trade a reality.
Will Jacque Vaughn be given a chance?
The Brooklyn Nets and coach Kenny Atkinson parted ways on March 7, mere days before the eventual NBA hiatus. In those 4 days, head assistant coach Jacque Vaughn was appointed as interim head coach. In the two games he coached, the team performed admirably, winning both against the Bulls and Lakers. With Brooklyn's search for its next head coach seemingly hitting an impasse, Vaughn has emerged as a legitimate candidate. So, what does Jacque Vaughn bring to the table?