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Will NBA season continue without Phoenix Suns?

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Will NBA season continue without Phoenix Suns?

Duane Rankin, Arizona Republic
Published 6:43 p.m. MT May 23, 2020 | Updated 10:32 p.m. MT May 23, 2020

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Phoenix Suns reserve big Frank Kaminsky participates in voluntary workouts at Arizona Veteran Memorial Coliseum.

Arizona Republic

The NBA continues to take steps toward resuming the 2019-20 season amid COVID-19 pandemic with the latest leaving a favorable footprint in Orlando.

NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass released a statement Saturday that the league having talks with Walt Disney Company about “restarting” the season in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida “as a single site for an NBA campus” for games.

The season has been on pause since March 11 after Utah Jazz all-star Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.

“The NBA, in conjunction with the National Basketball Association Players Association, is engaged in exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about restarting the 2019-20 NBA season in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as a single site for an NBA campus for games, practices and housing. Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place.”

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The question here in the desert is will the Phoenix Suns be part of this?

Sports Illustrated reported earlier this week the league looked to have 70-game regular season. Based on the math alone, Phoenix (26-39) wouldn’t make a 16-team postseason because it is six games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference held by Memphis, which owns the tiebreaker over them.

The Suns have played 65 games.

However, Toronto, Boston, Brooklyn, Washington, Los Angeles Clippers, Utah, Oklahoma City, Houston, New Orleans, Sacramento and Minnesota have played 64 games while the Los Angeles Lakers have played 63. 

So some teams will have to play more than five games to reach 70, which is the magic number for the local TV contracts. The NBA would certainly lose money falling short of 70 games, but again, the fewer teams lessens the health risk with the virus.

There are reports of a play-in tournament ranging from 24 teams with 12 in each conference to 10 teams from each conference with teams from 7 to 10 competing to determine the seventh and eighth seeds.

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Either scenario leaves out the Suns, who are 13th in the Western Conference.

With this season already being unprecedented, this could be a time to experiment and put the top 24 teams in the playoffs regardless of conference.

Based on winning percentage, Phoenix would be 21st.

ESPN NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith even entertained Phoenix getting a play-in tournament look when blasting Jay Williams’ report that the NBA considers having all 30 teams make the postseason with the bottom nine teams playing in a tournament to determine the seventh and eighth seeds in each conference.

“I guess you could say Phoenix because they’re only two games (behind San Antonio),” Smith said. 

Suns backup big Frank Kaminsky said Tuesday the team would welcome a play-in tournament situation.

“That would really give us something to build towards,” Kaminsky said.

If team training camps will be in Orlando as reported, having all 30 teams in one city increases the chances of having someone catching and spreading the virus regardless of how isolated the players, coaches, trainer and remaining “essential” people are.

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This should be taken into account in whatever decision the league makes.

Ultimately, the pandemic should take precedence over all as there are more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases with more than 96,000 deaths according to Centers for Disease Control, but the NBA has reached this point of talking to Walt Disney about hosting games after NBA commissioner Adam Silver has reportedly talked to players about the health risks and continuing to play. 

That was latest crossroads for the league.

The NBA has since moved forward with conversations about resuming the season in Orlando despite the COVID-19 death toll continuing to rise in the United States.

A decision is looming. The NBA will receive praise and criticism no matter what it chooses to do, but this latest move points in the direction of resuming the season. 

The Suns may find themselves on the outside regardless of what the NBA does.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at [email protected] or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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