After finalizing the comeback plan between the league and its players, the NBA officially released the eight-game schedule for the 22 teams that will head to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida next month. The Indiana Pacers are among those teams, traveling to the resort on July 9 and staying at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
The Pacers have officially clinched a playoff spot heading into what the league will refer to as “Seeding Games.” The standings will resume based on where the season left off on March 11, which has the Pacers currently sitting in 5th place at 39-26, holding a tiebreaker over the Philadelphia 76ers with the same record.
Anywhere from 3rd to 6th is in play for the Pacers, but it will prove difficult for them to make up the 4 1⁄2 game they currently sit behind the 3rd seed Boston Celtics. The fourth seed will remain in play, however, as they sit two games behind the Miami Heat, though it remains to be seen what “seeding” actually means in a neutral site setting.
Should the Pacers and Heat stay in their current spots, they will have plenty of warm up to a potential first round series as they face each other twice in the Seeding Games.
That’s right, the Pacers do have a full schedule, all times Eastern:
Saturday, August 1 - Philadelphia 76ers (7:00 p.m.)
Monday, August 3 - Washington Wizards (4:00 p.m.)
Tuesday, August 4 - Orlando Magic (6:00 p.m.)
Thursday, August 6 - Phoenix Suns (4:00 p.m.)
Saturday, August 8 - Los Angeles Lakers (6:00 p.m.) on TNT
Monday, August 10 - Miami Heat (8:00 p.m.)
Wednesday, August 12 - Houston Rockets (4:00 p.m.) on NBA TV
Friday, August 14 - Miami Heat (TBD)
What stands out immediately is the two matchups with Miami. This is a deviation from what could have been the schedule based on the next eight games in the original 82-game slate, where they’d have only played once otherwise. At least it gives us an extra game of T.J. Warren and Jimmy Butler going at each other!
Predicted Pacers schedule (next 8, minus Delete 8): PHI, MIA, PHX, ORL, HOU, SAC, LAL, LAC— Caitlin Cooper (@C2_Cooper) June 26, 2020
Actual Pacers schedule: PHI, WAS, ORL, PHX, LAL, MIA, HOU, MIA
Along with the opening game against Philadelphia, these three games will almost certainly determine where the Pacers are in the standings at the end of the year. Beyond that, they will have three games against teams under .500, facing Washington, Orlando, and Phoenix in consecutive games, including a back-to-back against the Magic.
It’s hard to predict how the standings will affect teams as they return, so it becomes impossible to gauge just what three games against sub-.500 opponents actually means. These games, the early ones in particular, will be far more reminiscent of preseason games than where the quality of games were in March, when we last saw them.
The outcomes to these games could swing wildly, and getting these potential play-in teams so early in the slate will only make them more difficult. Even the late games in their schedules may not feature much in the way of teams resting players, not only in the two matchups with Miami, but in their 7th game against Houston, who themselves are tied for 5th in a tight seeding race in the West.
As for Indiana’s main opposition, Philadelphia will play half of their games against sub.-500 teams while the Heat have no such reprieve, playing only the Suns. One of the more potentially curious subplots in this setting will be seeing whether the poor road records for both Miami and Philadelphia will have any affect on their wins and losses.
Another thing to note about the restart is the time of games. There will be upwards of seven games a day across across these 16 days of games, tipping anywhere from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern on three different courts. The Pacers escape any especially early games, but will be playing in three 4 p.m. tips.
Only two games will be televised nationally; the August 8th matchup against the Lakers on TNT and the August 12 game vs. Houston on NBA TV. Fox Sports Indiana will carry the games locally.
Ultimately, all of this speculation is assuming everything goes as planned in regards to the Coronavirus pandemic. The whole reason for these games to even need to take place at Walt Disney World can’t be forgotten, especially as the state of Florida announced nearly 9,000 positive tests in a single day in a wildly out of control week for the host state.
Even among NBA players, there are positive tests. Of the 302 players tested on Tuesday, 16 came back positive, including Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon. This number won’t have any affect on the players entering the “bubble” at Walt Disney World given the mandated quarantine for those who tested positive, but will the 5% who tested positive remain a consistent number or will the league be able to keep the number lower, or at least low enough to avoid disruptions in play? What number is that? Will 5% actually be considered acceptable?
It’s impossible to know for sure how safe all of this is in terms of preventing player infections, especially given staff and security around the three resorts likely not being isolated to the same degree as the players, but it’s as good as it gets if the goal is continue the season, even getting a positive sign off from Dr. Anthony Fauci. The Walt Disney World Resort, already well-equipped for its upcoming hurricane season, can isolate better than any other potential hub location, but it will still come down to the players themselves being game.
Should things go as planned, however, Pacers basketball will be returning on August 1st. The prospect of NBA basketball at all is exciting, so too will be the opportunity to hear players use their platform to speak out against police brutality and the social injustices facing black people not only in the United States, but around the world. How that voice carries itself onto the court with no one to speak over it will be well worth watching.