Rookie sensation Zion Williamson is a possibility. So is Rockets star guard Russell Westbrook—as well as the guy the other guy in the blockbuster trade that sent Westbrook to Houston last summer, Chris Paul. One of the first players to test positive for COVID-19, Donovan Mitchell, is reportedly under consideration.
Even retired NBA star Paul Pierce, now an ESPN analyst, tweeted his approval and willingness to join.
It could be one of the oddest major pro events we’ve seen in American sports history, maybe fitting these dire and, at the very least, odd times. The NBA and one of its two major broadcasting partners—ESPN—are reportedly working on a plan to bring the league to its hoops-starved fans, even in a non-traditional yet still socially distant way.
Yes, the league wants to put together a multi-player H-O-R-S-E tournament that would allow players to participate remotely, from isolated gyms, perhaps even at their own homes. No details have been settled upon as of yet, but sides could lay out a schedule and a list of participants this week.
So, What is H-O-R-S-E, Anyway?
For those not familiar—and who hasn’t played backyard H-O-R-S-E before?—the game essentially is a shooting challenge. A player must make a shot and when he or she does, all subsequent players still in the competition must match the shot. The first person who does not make the shot gets a “letter,” each letter progressing until H-O-R-S-E is spelled out.
Miss five shots that someone else has made, the player winds up with H-O-R-S-E and is eliminated.
The fun of the game comes in the creativity of the shots involved. To demonstrate, here’s Michael Jordan and Larry Bird from a vintage set of McDonald’s commercials:
Pessimism on Potential NBA Return
Certainly, a H-O-R-S-E tournament in the middle of such an abrupt NBA dry spell would be a welcome bit of positivity amid the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s also coming as there is increasing skepticism in some corners of the league about whether the rest of the league’s season can be rescued.
It’s still only early April and the NBA is still more than a month away from making a decision on what will become of the 2019-20 season. But the COVID-19 crisis has still not hit its peak in the parts of the nation hit hardest by the virus and once it does, it will take weeks to subside. There figure to be more outbreaks in other parts of the country, too.
The notion of playing out the season in one or a few locations—Las Vegas being among them—with players being quarantined and playing in front of an empty arena is the most likely scenario of getting the season finished. The league would have to determine how many games and playoff series it could conduct under those circumstances.
Such a season ending would need to get underway by late July or very early August.
NBA training facilities have been ordered closed since March 19, a week after league commissioner Adam Silver officially suspended play because of the spreading of the coronavirus nationally.
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