By Brian Gewecke
The beginning of the NBA season is right around the corner, with the preseason starting on Friday, December 11th. Every year, the preseason provides the fans with a sneak peak of their favorite team’s roster and what this year’s team may have in store. Most fans know to take the preseason with a grain of salt, as most stars will barely play, and teams will be focusing on determining which final players make the roster as well as testing rotations. However, this year especially will provide fans with a unique experience.
The first thing fans have to understand is that the majority of free agents signed with their teams only about two weeks ago. Teams with completely revamped rosters like the Atlanta Hawks, the local Golden State Warriors, the Phoenix Suns and others simply can’t be expected to perform well right out of the gate. It may take several weeks into the regular season for most teams to mold together. Because of the unfortunate circumstances provided by COVID-19, schedules have been compressed, and this will be yet another consequence.
Although we will likely be seeing some sloppy basketball for the next month, I believe there are plenty of upsides to the preseason. Primarily, this will be the first time we will see the incoming rookies play against NBA competition. Whether or not the rookies perform well, it will undoubtedly be exciting to watch the new class’s introduction to the NBA.
For players like Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, who have been gone for virtually all of the previous season with injuries, the preseason will be the first time fans have witnessed their greatness in well over a year. However, fans of players like James Harden can’t expect to see their favorite player anytime soon, as Harden’s prioritizing of clubs over his organization and dancers over his teammates will probably keep him out of competitions for a couple of weeks. After several nights of partying while the rest of his team was hard at work, Harden will have to pass six consecutive COVID-19 tests to join training camp.
With the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol, many restrictions have been placed on teams and players. Throughout the entire season, players and staff are prohibited from entering certain areas such as clubs and bars, with serious consequences such as fines, suspensions, and in the most serious cases, revoking draft picks. To even begin training camp, participating players have had to pass initial COVID tests, and will continue to be tested regularly. The limitations set by the NBA and the constant tests will undoubtedly test the commitment of all players to their teams.
Another exciting aspect of the preseason this year is that we may see the most raw level of professional basketball we’ve ever seen. Although I’m not saying that we will see intense games, we will be seeing teammates who have only been together for a week or so playing freely and without much structure. I expect everything to be so disorganized that these games will feel more like pickup games between professionals than usual NBA games.
For anyone playing fantasy basketball, don’t pay attention to the preseason, especially this year. It is much smarter to play it safe and trust your draft performance than to make erratic decisions based on games where stars won’t play and players who may not even make a team will drop 20.
In summary, although it isn’t fair to place any expectations on this preseason in which some players might not even know most of their teammates, I believe that there are plenty of points to be excited about if the fans change what they are looking for the next few weeks.