Even with the news that the NBA Board of Governors voted to overwhelmingly approve NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s plan to re-start the season, there is still a lot we don’t know about how exactly that will happen. There are big questions left to be answered about the health and safety protocols the league will take to keep out or contain the coronavirus, as well as smaller (but still important) questions about how the format for play will look when the Lakers and the other 21 teams heading to Disney World take the floor again.
One big question facing the league: How will it reward the teams like the Lakers — who fought the whole season to earn the West’s best record and home-court advantage — when playing playoff games at a neutral site in empty gyms in Orlando? It’s obviously far from the most important issue in the world right now, but it still is something the league will have to figure out its response to.
It’s possible that the NBA will just decide that the reward for the teams with better records is facing worse teams, and hey, that is an advantage that can’t be completely overlooked. But still, it’s less than teams normally get for their efforts, and even though this is far from a normal year, the league’s contenders are still apparently trying to figure out some sort of way the NBA can make it up to them.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported this week that some of the league’s contenders have been talking to each other about benefits the league could give them instead of home-court advantage, and he published a few of the proposals that have been discussed between those organizations:
- The higher-seeded team being awarded the first possession of the second, third and fourth quarters, following the traditional jump ball to begin the game.
- The higher-seeded team being allowed to designate one player to be able to be whistled for seven fouls instead of six before fouling out.
- The higher-seeded team receiving an extra coach’s challenge.
- The higher-seeded teams being able to transport their actual hardwood home court from their arenas to Orlando to try to preserve the feel of their home playing experience.
- An off-court feature in which playoff teams, in order of seeding 1-16, receive first choice on picking which hotel they will stay at in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Disney World Resort. ESPN is owned by the Walt Disney Co.
Now, like me, you might be thinking “those are pretty ridiculous, there is no way the NBA lets that happen.” And I agree, but unlike most, my next thought was not “how can we make these better?” It was “how can I make them wayyyyyyyyy dumber?”
So presented, without further interruption, is the conclusion of that little thought exercise, in which I tried to find the stupidest possible ways the NBA could give teams something to make up for their lack of home-court advantage, with a little Disney magic inspired by their location sprinkled in*.
The better team gets to pick their opponent’s hotel
You thought LeBron James and the Lakers vs. the Memphis Grizzlies was a mismatch before? Well how about LeBron James and the Lakers vs. the Memphis Grizzlies, who in this scenario are staying in the $28 per night Maingate Florida Hotel, located just a 12-minute drive away from the parks. According to Trip Advisor, it is the cheapest hotel considered near Disney World. Amenities include, and this is true, complementary breakfast and free reservation cancellations. Wow!
Would this violate all kinds of CBA rules and break the NBA’s bubble? Absolutely, but it sounds like they aren’t really going to enforce the bubble part too strictly anyway and also it’s never going to happen, so we don’t have to think about safety. We can just imagine how funny and petty this would get when Anthony Davis forced the New Orleans Pelicans to stay in a nearby trailer park.
The Ol’ Red Auerbach Special
Legendary Boston Celtics coach and executive Red Auerbach was infamously accused by former Lakers coach Pat Riley of getting someone to pull fire alarms in opponents’ hotels the night before games, and so let’s make a nod to NBA history with one proposal: The higher-seeded team can pull a fire alarm in their opponent’s hotel in the middle of the night once during a series, but the opponent doesn’t get to know if it’s a real fire or fake so they have to abandon their rooms anyway.
Is this ethical? Probably not. Does it violate every fire code in the book? Trick question, Florida probably doesn’t have fire codes**.
But aside from all the safety issues, would this be entertaining as hell and a way to make up for lost revenue if the NBA released the footage of James Harden and his teammates running screaming from their rooms on pay-per-view? Absolutely.
The Flu Game
This one is another ode to NBA history. Remember in “The Last Dance,” when it was revealed that Michael Jordan and his team blamed poisoned, suspicious pizza allegedly delivered by five mysterious men (but still eaten for some reason) for his “flu game?”
Well, this one is for all you old heads who say you miss the 90’s: Let the higher seeded team attempt to slip laxatives in their opponents’ food once during a series.
Is this safe? Absolutely not. Would it lead to some insane mind games, possibly skipped meals and tempers running high when the Lakers give a player from Utah a taste of their city’s own (alleged) medicine? Yes. Come on Commish, let’s see once and for all if today’s players could
poop play back in MJ’s day.
The Fantasy Draft
This one might have some legs, and a chance to make some of the teams not headed to Orlando happy. The Atlanta Hawks wanted Trae Young to get to participate in all this? Well okay, this is the way, because I’m proposing that playoff teams can draft a player from a non-playoff team for one game, but they have to wear a full Disney costume the entire game as a handicap.
Now before you say “Harrison, that’s ridiculous, a Donald Duck costume would be more of a detriment to Devin Booker’s game than a double team, or being guarded by Corey Brewer,” and yes, I hear you, but it doesn’t have to be a mascot. Could De’Aaron Fox still run fast and score a bunch in a stormtrooper costume? Could he at least be better than Rajon Rondo under such circumstances? There is only one way to find out.
The Fast Pass
Let’s get some more benefits of being at Disney World involved here. Have you ever wondered what extremes NBA players could be pushed to and still perform? Well look no further, because for this proposal, I say let the higher seeded team force one player on the opposition to go on a ride of the “home” team’s choice right before tip-off.
Picture this: Just before a game seven, the Lakers get to force Russell Westbrook to ride the Guardians of the Galaxy ride. We’ve seen him play with tunnel vision, but how would he handle blurry, nauseous vision? If the league passes this proposal, we can find out.
Speaking of nausea, the next rule may inspire some in both the player in question and the viewers at home.
Force one player on the opposing team to eat 10 churros before one game in the series
Look, everyone loves the churros at Disney’s parks. They’re awesome. But could the best athletes in the world eat 10 of them and then play well enough to win? I mean, that’s probably Nikola Jokic and Zion Williamson’s normal pregame meals, but the rest of the league might struggle. Let’s see what would happen!
A Mickey Mouse Operation
We had to get Mickey involved somewhere here, and this seems like as good a spot as any: The higher-seeded team can force their opponent to be coached by a teen in a Mickey Mouse costume for one half at any point during a series.
And before you say “wouldn’t that help the Bulls?”, I know it would, but they’re not a playoff team. This would seem to be a bigger detriment to young teams than older ones, but it might be so strange that it would even throw off some veterans. And that’s not all we got, because finally, I saved the most ridiculous, dumbest and most transformative proposal for last, and it’s....
Let’s Get Goofy
Everyone knows that basketball is played with five players per team. But NBA basketball usually features home-court fans so loud that they’re sometimes referred to as a spiritual sixth man. So what if, in their place, we added an actual sixth man?
That’s what I’m proposing here: For two minutes per game during a series, the higher-seeded team can play with an extra defender on the floor, but they have to be wearing a mascot costume. Given that Goofy is the tallest and lankiest character who fits the bill, he makes the most sense here.
This one is fascinating, because it has the biggest chance to be feast or famine. Yes, adding JaVale McGee as an extra defender to just patrol the rim would probably help, but would teams be used to having an extra body there? What about one in a Goofy costume who might not have the best peripheral vision due to a mask? Could it hurt more than it helps? This would be especially interesting to see if teams saved for crunch time inbounds plays and such, and it is so weird I can’t help but want to see it.
Again, are any of these going to actually happen? Probably not. Still, after actively trying to be ridiculous, they’re still only slightly dumber than the proposals actual NBA executives came up with, so maybe the league will take a look at these, too, if they’re so determined to give this season an asterisk when it doesn’t need to have one.
*the preceding suggestions are obviously all parody and I am in no way seriously advocating for them
**I am being told that Florida does actually have fire codes.
Let us know your favorite proposal in the comments, or suggest your own! For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.