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How Suns could fit in with NBA’s desire to reach altered 70-game season

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Among the many logistical issues with the NBA potentially returning to finish the 2019-20 regular season during the COVID-19 pandemic is potential structural changes to the season.

The latest reporting from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe has the NBA recalling players to their respective cities on June 1, taking two weeks to get them under a period of quarantine. From there, it would be one to two weeks of individual workouts at team facilities and a two- to three-week formal training camp.

Wojnarowski and Lowe report the expected return of games at the latest would be by the end of July, and for you math whizzes at home, that timeline above adds up to right around there too.

With the Phoenix Suns currently at 65 games played, that’s still another 17 left for them to get in. All indications are that an 82-game season is out of the question, and starting in late July supports that given there’s still the NBA Draft, free agency, summer league and the actual offseason to go on in the late summer/fall.

The league has been on a time crunch since the season was suspended on March 11.

While jumping straight to the playoffs with a few tune-up games is the most logical route, there’s money being lost the league has to get back in order for the CBA and salary cap to not get completely nuked. On top of, you know, a majorly profitable business attempting to pad catastrophic losses as much as possible.

Given the serious health risks at hand with the coronavirus, even under strict testing and health guidelines in a more optimistic outlook of the virus after six week’s time, it doesn’t make sense for teams like the Suns to come back if they have nothing to play for. That’s putting aside the obvious, as well, that players and staff accept potentially being away from their families for months and the threat of an internal league outbreak.

But, to get back to the money as it inevitably always has to, the regional television contracts kick in once 70 games have been played.

Phoenix, however, is six games out of the playoff race. They are mathematically eliminated in a 70-game season. How can there be motivation in a five-game spurt for nothing?

Aside from getting back to basketball, there’s the possibility of a play-in tournament for the teams out of the race to sneak in. Commissioner Adam Silver has said that an in-season tournament has been discussed among league higherups in the past, and it’s surely being considered as a modification now.

Suns big Frank Kaminsky has been on all the league calls, including the latest Silver had with players. He acknowledged the possibility of that change.

“I hope one of the things is a format where you at least have the opportunity to make the playoffs,” he said. “That would really give us something to build towards.”

Even if there wasn’t a tournament, though, Kaminsky doesn’t have any hesitations about the Suns getting something out of those five games.

“We’re the type of group — we’re really competitive,” he said. “Everyone wants to go out there and prove things. We got a lot of young guys on this team that have a lot to prove, myself included.

“Any games we can take at this point to go out there and show what we can do, we’re gonna take.”

But even with that positive mindset from Kaminsky, figuring out nearly half of the league’s reasoning for finishing is another obstacle it has to at least consider when constructing a return.

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