Last Thursday, the NBA board of governors voted to approve the 22-team format for the remainder of the season. There was a heavy majority for the passing of this format, with 29-1 votes in favor. Who was the only team to vote against this proposal, you may ask? Well, it was our very own Portland Trail Blazers.
Why? Why would Portland be the only team to vote against the proposal that the NBA Players Association and every other team voted for? It’s for a (pretty) sneaky reason.
The Trail Blazers aren’t a fan of the format and have voiced their opinions regarding it. CJ McCollum tweeted, “We play for an ownership group that actually listens to its players and has a backbone. We voiced what we felt was the best option and they followed our lead. I commend our front office and Jody Allen.”
The team was in favor of a 20-team format, not 22 teams. This is because if we take a quick look on the NBA standings (above), we’ll see that Dame and the Blazers are currently 9th in the West, trailing the Memphis Grizzlies by just 3.5 games.
But wait, if we keep going down the ranks, we’ll see that the New Orleans Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings (when did they even become somewhat decent??) are also 3.5 games behind, with the San Antonio Spurs 4 games behind the 8th seed.
This makes the entirety of the bottom half of the Western Conference a very close race, where thus statistically speaking, the more teams added, the harder the chances are for the Blazers to obtain a playoff spot.
Obviously the Trail Blazers and the crew wouldn’t go out and blatantly say, “Hey, we don’t want more teams added because it makes it harder for us.”
Instead, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski explained:
Sources: Blazers are eager to resume season, but chose to vote “No” because franchise believed there were more competitive and innovative formats on table — including those that addressed 2020 NBA Draft lottery odds based on regular-season game results in Orlando.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 4, 2020
I mean … what can I say other than I respect your decision.
Looking back at our NBA standings, we see that Portland is in the 9th seed. How would they be able to get into the playoffs based on their new format? The rules state that at the end of the remaining regular season, if the 9th seed is not within 4 games of the 8th, then they are eliminated and done for the year. But, if they do end up within 4 games, a double-elimination play-in tournament will occur.
So, how do the Blazers go about getting this play-in to occur? They would need to beat the number 8th seed (the Memphis Grizzlies) two times. So far, the Blazers have only played the Grizzlies once, losing 111-104 back in February.
Recall what Damian Lillard said on May 26th. He said, “If we come back and they’re just like, ‘We’re adding a few games to finish the regular season,’ and they’re throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team. But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that in there.”
That’s entirely fair. Why would a superstar want to play meaningless games when there is a chance of getting injured—or sick? But, with this new proposed format, even though the Blazers may not be fans of it, there is still a shot for Portland to become a playoff team for the 7th year in a row. That means we get to see Dame play and hopefully cook some ankles and splash some treys.
I’d like to give a quick shoutout to Adam Silver for all his work he’s done this year. The owners and players who tend to be critical of his work have even shut up. He’s gone right ahead in formulating a return that the majority of the NBA and NBPA likes. He’s talked to players and answered their hard questions, worked with owners in talks about revenue, and even got all the relevant parties on board for the shooting of the Last Dance (which kept you, me, and many others entertained amidst these hard times).
With the NBA planning to re-open training between July 9 and July 11, with a 22-team format in Orlando at Walt Disney Resort, I think it’s safe to say that even though the Trail Blazers disagree with the plan, we can have a smile on our faces knowing that we are finally in the 4th quarter.