Dude’s Update On Pro Sports Return

Okay so are the professional sports league going to finish their seasons or not? Since the COVID-19 pandemic caused professional sports leagues to stop playing, the speculation has been when and if the leagues were going to play again. Now that we are nearing July 4th, we wonder when they will start.

If I have to be honest with you, at this point and with the COVID-19 numbers spiking once again, I would rather that leagues not try to finish their seasons and just wait until next year. Regardless, here are the latest updates:

Major League Baseball (MLB) is finally set to begin a 60-game schedule to start the end of July. The schedule will feature 40 games within the division and 20 inter league games against teams in corresponding regional divisions. The league has given each club the permission to decide how they will manage fans to coincide with local restrictions. The restart of “spring training” has already begun. It was also announced this week that MLB cancelled all minor league seasons in 2020. The league also ruled that spitting will not be allowed.

National Hockey League (NHL) is set to open training camps on July 10th. The league is planning to restart with a 24-team tournament to be played in two “hub cities”. The latest word was that Toronto and Edmonton were being considered as the hub cities.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is planning to revive their season with 22 teams playing in Walt Disney World with no fans in attendance. The spike in COVID cases in Florida has raised some concern but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is still comfortable with the league’s plan to restart the season. There have been reports that NBA players will wear smart rings which will monitor their temperatures and other vital signs to ensure safety of their players.

Major League Soccer (MLS) is set to start playing again with what they call “The MLS is Back” tournament beginning July 8th in Orlando, Florida. Just this week, six players from FC Dallas have tested positive for the coronavirus. Teams will participate in group play much like they do in the World Cup.

The pandemic is already impacting the start of the National Football League (NFL). The league cancelled the Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers which was scheduled for August. The league also cut down the preseason schedule from four to two games. There are still talks of shortening the regular season.

College football has been weighing their options but nothing has been decided. Players from Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee and other major colleges have tested positive. Coaches are navigating these issues while trying to prepare for the upcoming season. The season is still scheduled to begin on August 29th. There has been some talk of pushing the start of the season to February of 2021. I’m not sure about that one.

While we have been deprived of our professional sports teams, sports is really not the most important thing right now as the nation finds itself fighting the rise in coronavirus infections. Leagues shouldn’t return to playing just to play but do the smart thing even if it means they might not play at all. The end of the official seasons for the NBA, NHL or MLS shouldn’t be cheapened by some thrown-together tournament. Whoever wins the championship will be tagged with an asterisk anyway. As much as I love sports, let’s just hit the restart button when a full season can be played.

When Will Sports Play Again?

With most of America opening up again after the pandemic which caused professional sports leagues to cancel or postpone their seasons, there are plans of restarting professional sports. Here are the latest plans for restarting:

National Basketball Association (NBA)

The NBA Board of Governors has approved a restart of the 2019-20 season on July 31 with 22 of the league’s 30 teams participating in a tournament format. All games will be held without fans at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.

National Hockey League (NHL)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently conducted a press conference outlining the NHL’s Return-to-Play plans.

This format will feature the top-12 teams in each conference playing in a qualifying round, with the top-four seeds in the Eastern and Western Conference (based on points percentage) clinching automatic bids into the first round of the playoffs. That means that the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers have clinched playoff berths in the Eastern Conference, while the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars have clinched in the Western Conference.

These eight teams will also play in an intraconference round-robin event that will determine the top-four seeds of the first round of the playoffs in each conference. These games will be played with regular season overtime and shootout rules, with ties in the final standings broken by regular season points percentage.

The remaining eight teams in each conference will compete in a qualifying round that will feature a bracketed format, meaning that the five-seed will take on the 12-seed, the six-seed will face the 11-seed, the seven-seen battles the 10-seed, and the eight and nine-seed will matchup for the chance to move on to the first round of the playoffs. The matchups for the first round series remain to be set as the Return To Play committee is still determining whether to set the format based on seeding or a bracket.

Here is how that playoff format would look in both conferences:

Eastern Conference:
5 – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12 – Montreal Canadiens
6 – Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11 – New York Rangers
7 – New York Islanders vs. 10 – Florida Panthers
8 – Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 9 – Columbus Blue Jackets

Western Conference:
5 – Edmonton Oilers vs. 12 – Chicago Blackhawks
6 – Nashville Predators vs. 11 – Arizona Coyotes
7 – Vancouver Canucks vs. 10 – Minnesota Wild
8 – Calgary Flames vs. 9 – Winnipeg Jets

The qualifying round will be a best-of-five series, while the Return To Play committee has yet to finalize whether the first and second round of the playoffs will be a best-of-five series or a best-of-seven series. However, the Conference Final round and the Stanley Cup Final will all be a best-of-seven series.

Once the round-robin and qualifying rounds have ended, the league will conduct conference-based playoffs in each hub city.

The league is currently still debating over a total of 10 cities, and it will eventually come down to two final cities to host the Return To Play format once the league can officially restart play.

Those cities include:

Chicago
Columbus
Dallas
Edmonton
Las Vegas
Los Angeles
Minneapolis/St. Paul
Pittsburgh
Toronto
Vancouver

Commissioner Bettman did say that a final decision on the two hub cities to host the conclusion of the 2019-20 season might not come for another 3-4 weeks, and that a final determination will depend on COVID-19 conditions, testing availability, and government regulations.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

There is no decision on how or when Major League Baseball will return. This is largely due to indecision on plans between the league and the players’ union. The latest proposal is for a 76-game season to begin in July and end in October. The issue seems to be cutting player salaries for the shortened season proposal which the MLBPA is rejecting. If the indecision continues, the 2020 season could be cancelled.

Major League Soccer (MLS)

The latest plans are that MLS teams will go to Orlando and play all the tournament games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The teams would be divided into groups like at the World Cup and play three group stage matches, which will be added to the original two matches all teams played towards their regular season totals.

Then 16 teams would advance out of the ‘group stage’ into a 16-team knockout style tournament. The teams that didn’t advance would go home with the others moving through the round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and finally the championship. Only the group stage matches will be added to the season totals.

Friday Flashback: Wilt Chamberlain Scores 100 Points

chamberlain100Even when I look at it now, 56 years later, it is still hard to fathom that someone could score 100 points in a basketball game.  Wilt Chamberlain accomplished this amazing record on March 2, 1962 to lead his Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks.  The game was played at Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  The game was played in Hershey because the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not yet considered a major sports league and would often play “home” games in other locations to attract new fans.  The game in Hershey was the home game for the Warriors.

The NBA regular season was close to the end with the Warriors (46-29) in second place behind the Boston Celtics and the Knicks were in last place.

The Warriors jumped out to a 19-3 lead with Chamberlain accounting for 13 points.  He finished the quarter with 23 points.  By halftime, Chamberlain had an impressive 41 points.  He eclipsed his own personal record for scoring when he notched his 79th point with 7:51 left in the game.  In the final minutes, the game plan was clear to get the ball to Chamberlain.  The Knicks began fouling anyone with the ball except for Chamberlain and slowing down the game when they had possession of the ball.  With 46 seconds, Chamberlain scored his 100th point as the sparse crowd went crazy.  Unfortunately, there are no television or radio accounts of the game but witnesses differ between Chamberlain laying up the 100th shot or scoring it with a slam dunk.  The next highest scorer for the Warriors on that night was Al Attles with 17 points.  Richie Guerin led the Knicks with 39.  Chamberlain was 36 of 63 shots from the field and made 28 of his 32 free throw attempts.

After the celebration for Chamberlain scoring his 100th point, the final 46 seconds was played but Chamberlain simply stood in the circle and said that “100 sounded better than 102”.

boxscore

The teams played again in New York two nights later and Chamberlain was held to “only” 58 points in the rematch.  Chamberlain finished the season with 4,029 points and the only player in NBA history to break the 4,000 point barrier.

Philadelphia finished 49-31.  The Warriors edged Syracuse 3 games to 2 in the division semifinals but then lost in seven games to the Boston Celtics in the division finals.  The Warriors’ franchise moved to San Francisco the next season and would later become today’s Golden State Warriors.

Chamberlain played 13 more seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers (1965-1968) and Los Angeles Lakers (1968-1973).  He won two NBA titles in 1967 and 1972.

The only player to come within reach of Chamberlain’s record was Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers who scored 81 points in January 2006 in a game against the Toronto Raptors.

Wilt Chamberlain’s Top Scoring Games in NBA history:

  • 78 – December 1961 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
  • 73 – January 1962 vs. Chicago Packers
  • 73 – November 1962 vs. New York Knicks
  • 72 – November 1962 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
  • 70 – March 1963 vs. Syracuse Nationals
  • 68 – December 1967 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
  • 67 – March 1961 vs. New York Knicks
  • 67 – February 1962 vs. St. Louis Hawks
  • 67 – February 1962 vs. New York Knicks
  • 67 – January 1963 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
  • 66 – February 1969 vs. Phoenix Suns
  • 65 – February 1962 vs. Cincinnati Royals
  • 65 – February 1962 vs. St. Louis Hawks
  • 65 – February 1966 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
  • 63 – December 1962 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
  • 63 – November 1964 vs. Philadelphia 76ers