By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and as the return of the NBA continues to gain traction, an exciting idea is rumored: a playoff-plus tournament. Rather than having a traditional playoff format, the NBA is considering having multiple non-playoff teams joining the top eight teams in the East and West in the hunt for the championship. Expanding the playoff field to 20, allowing the four teams with the next-best records into the postseason, would eliminate the problems generated by forgoing the rest of the regular season. As such, the Trail Blazers, Kings, Spurs, and Pelicans would qualify for the tournament.
Of course, no plan is perfect, and the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets—the 9th and 10th seed in the East—would likely feel slighted as they would be omitted in favor of the 11th and 12th best teams in the West. However, there is no argument that either of those teams deserves to have the opportunity to play postseason basketball. For the four teams making the hypothetical field out of the West, that is not the case. A run at the 7th or 8th seed was a possibility before the suspension of the NBA season.
One interesting ripple to this proposal is for the Portland Trail Blazers. Coming off an appearance in the Western Conference Finals last season, the Blazers have been a relative disappointment this season. The team’s struggles in the standings is primarily due to injury, as big men Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic have both been sidelined for either a large portion or the entire duration of the season. However, there is every reason to believe Nurkic and Collins will be ready to roll with the Blazers upon the return of the NBA. At his best, Nurkic is a major, difference-making force in the paint for Portland, while Collins is an impact-maker and a solid depth piece for the Blazers. Provided things shake out as expected, Portland is not a team any championship hopeful will be looking forward to playing this summer.
As the NBA’s return appears to be imminent, the MLB season continues to hit roadblocks along the path to Opening Day. The most recent reports cite a sizeable disagreement brewing surrounding MLB’s recently-submitted salary proposal. While it remains easy to scrutinize the players for their unwillingness to accept the terms, especially when their salaries are in the millions, the players remain deserving of sympathy in the situation. The players already made concessions, agreeing to forgo their agreed-upon contract in favor of prorated salaries on a per-game basis. Now, with the possibility of empty stadiums suddenly quite probable, the owners want players to sacrifice more of their salary.
Again, it is very easy to become agitated with the players as they complain about making millions to play a game. However, owners continuing to make millions upon millions in profit, and the revenue generated is not split with the players. In fact, as the owners are attempting to negotiate in bad faith with the MLBPA, many teams are either outright releasing minor leaguers or ceasing the payment of their salary. The most despicable element of the owner-submitted proposal is the massive salary cuts levied upon the game’s stars, while the lower-paid players receive the bulk of their prorated salaries. This is an obvious and egregious attempt to divide the MLBPA, and it should be widely condemned.
There is also the matter of precedent. Should the players concede and agree to play for less than their agreed contract, there is no doubt the owners will remember the next time negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement arrives. The owners aren’t public figures in the way the players are, which makes the players, especially the outspoken ones, easy targets for ridicule and scorn. That doesn’t make guys like Blake Snell, Max Scherzer, and any other stars who speak out in the coming days and weeks deserved targets.