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Welcoming unexpected soundbites in the age of crowd-less basketball

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Give us all the chatter, please and thanks.

Indiana Pacers v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

With the league reportedly discussing the possibility of completing a 70-game season to re-start by mid-July, much is still unknown. Like, what about players with pre-existing conditions? What if there’s an outbreak? What incentive will lottery teams have to play hard — with or without a play-in tournament? How will remaining schedules be formulated fairly? Still, one thing is certain: Even if every team ends up getting to say “we’re going to Disney World,” fans won’t be in attendance, which means the crowd noise that once served as a sound barrier for on-court communication won’t be there either.

As is the case with most everything else pertaining to the possible resumption of the season, it remains to be seen how the league will approach dealing with the potential for echoey gyms. From in-game music and robot drummers to piped-in noise and a new app called HearMeCheer, which is being touted as a means to provide fan engagement during the age of social distancing, there certainly won’t be any shortage of weird options.

But...here’s a selfish plea for all of the unexpected soundbites that have yet to be uttered:

Please find a way to make it to our ears with some degree of clarity.

Granted, per usual, the NBA’s television networks will likely have a vested interest in censoring expletive-laced trash talk as well as any particularly spicy exchanges with officials; however, play calls already occasionally make it through to the at-home audience.

Take what happened during the third quarter of Pacers-Nuggets, for instance. Just as T.J. McConnell was about to receive an inbound pass to head the other way on offense, you could faintly hear him call for Justin Holiday to run one of the team’s corner formations.

Unfortunately, for some reason, this particular soundbite didn’t come through on playback from league pass like it did on the night of the original broadcast; but, lo and behold, Justin ended up draining a three as the “four” after coming “up” from the short-corner (i.e. “c”) and zigzagging around a down-screen from Sabonis on the ensuing possession.

Cool, right?

Admittedly, given the bland quality of most of the mic’d up sessions during huddles, coaches probably aren’t going to be overly thrilled with the possibility of their marching orders being made public without some sort of pre-planned solution to prevent their voices from carrying. Nevertheless, with the potential for accidental leaks of nomenclature also comes the potential for broadcast teams to replace tangential rants with relevant teaching. After all, if playing without fans is going to result in glorified pick-up games, then why not take advantage of rare circumstances to provide an immersive viewing experience into the tactical aspects of the game — at least when the opportunity organically presents itself?

All of which is to say that if occasionally overhearing on-court chatter manages to drive the conversation away from diatribes on load management and the like and more toward “oh, based on what we just heard there, I think we might see Sabonis look to free up Justin Holiday with a down-screen,” who would be mad at it?