NBA targeting October finish for virus-hit season

Adam Silver. (AFP)
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Updated 03 June 2020

NBA targeting October finish for virus-hit season

  • The NBA and NBA Players Association are still finalizing the details of the resumption of the season

LOS ANGELES: The NBA is aiming to complete the 2020 season by mid-October, reports said Tuesday, as the league edges toward a return from the coronavirus shutdown.

ESPN reported that according to a time frame due to be voted on by NBA’s Board of Governors on Thursday, Game 7 of the NBA Finals would take place no later than Oct. 12.

The NBA and NBA Players Association are still finalizing the details of the resumption of the season, which was halted on March 11 as the coronavirus pandemic erupted.

ESPN reported that the league is planning a 22-team format for its return to play on July 31.

All games are expected to be within the confines of Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando Florida, with all teams remaining on site to minimize risk of COVID-19 outbreaks.

The NBA’s proposal to be put before the board on Thursday requires support from three quarters of the league’s 30 teams in order to be approved.

ESPN reported there was overwhelming support for the plan being recommended by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

One of the key issues to be settled is the format of the competition which will determine the final lineup for the 16-team playoffs.

Six teams currently just outside the playoff places will be included in the 22-team field and given the opportunity to claim a playoff berth.

If approved, the format will bring an abrupt end to the season for eight teams languishing outside the top 22.

Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said Tuesday exclusion from the restarted season would hurt his young team.

“The biggest thing we can benefit from is playing basketball,” Pierce said. “If the season is going to resume and we are not a part of it, it hurts our growth, it hurts our product, it hurts our ability to continue the momentum that we need going to next season.

“I play young guys, I have young guys — we need to play basketball.”

The restart is expected to include a two-week quarantine for players in their home cities, one to two weeks of workouts at team facilities followed by two-week training camps.

The regular season was halted abruptly after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive. Gobert, of France, was given the all-clear about two weeks later.

So far, less than a dozen NBA players have been confirmed as testing positive for the coronavirus although not all have been identified.


Leeds face test of nerve as promotion looms

Updated 07 July 2020

Leeds face test of nerve as promotion looms

  • Marcelo Bielsa’s side look odds-on to secure the place among English football’s elite

LONDON: After 16 years in the wilderness, Leeds United are on the brink of an eagerly awaited return to the Premier League — as long as they can hold their nerve with the finish line in sight.

A 3-1 win at Blackburn on Saturday moved Leeds a step closer to the promised land from the long purgatory of the lower leagues.

Marcelo Bielsa's side sit one point clear at the top of the Championship heading into their last five matches.

With third-placed Brentford six points behind, Leeds look odds-on to secure the place among English football's elite that their legion of fanatical fans used to regard as their birthright.

But Leeds were in a similar position last season and squandered a chance for automatic promotion before imploding in the playoffs.

When Leeds beat Sheffield Wednesday on April 13, 2019, a capacity crowd at Elland Road serenaded their jubilant team as if promotion had been secured.

Just 15 days later, after losses to Wigan and Brentford and a mad-cap draw against Villa — in which Bielsa told his team to deliberately let their opponents score following United's controversial opener — ended the Leeds top two challenge.

Leeds lost their nerve and Derby took full advantage in the playoff semifinal second leg, winning 4-2 to leave the Elland Road faithful in tears.

From the ashes of that bitter evening, Bielsa has dragged Leeds back into promotion contention.

But, with last season's collapse in mind, Leeds fans might have been alarmed to hear Bielsa admit he is feeling the strain of the run-in.

"Yes," Bielsa said when asked if he felt anxious during the Blackburn game.

"Every match in this period is very important. If we get distracted we will pay for that so we need to keep focused in every match."

With English football being played behind closed doors for the rest of the season amid the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps Leeds will benefit from playing in silence, rather than in front of their anxious fans.

"I'd love to be there more than anything. But it's such a nervous time and I do think that could impact the players," Leeds season-ticket holder Simon Sanders told AFP.

"Nothing feels quite right with this virus and the way the world has changed but if we make it the party will go on for weeks."

Three of Leeds' remaining games will be played in the empty stands of Elland Road against struggling trio Stoke, Barnsley and Charlton.

Win those games and taken a point from one of their two away games at Swansea and Derby and Leeds will be assured of promotion.

It would be a moment to savor after such a long period in the shadows.

Champions of England in 1969 and 1974 under Don Revie, then in 1992 when Howard Wilkinson called the shots, Leeds have a rich history.

But since being relegated from the top tier in 2004, Leeds have stumbled from financial disaster off the pitch to despair on it.

Describing the club's ascent to the heady heights of the Champions League in the early 2000s, former chairman Peter Ridsdale claimed he had "lived the dream."

Their subsequent fall was a never-ending nightmare that hit its lowest ebb in 2007 when Leeds went into administration and were relegated to the third tier for the first time.

No wonder the much-travelled Bielsa is so beloved after just two years in charge.

The former Argentina, Lazio, Marseille and Bilbao boss has turned the tide at a tortured club infamously labelled the 'Damned United' by novelist David Peace and forever remembered as 'Dirty Leeds' in the minds of fans who saw their no-holds-barred style in the Revie era.

Now Leeds' Italian owner Andrea Radrizzani is embracing that checkered past in a bid to secure promotion at last.

"For Leeds, we have a history of being 'Dirty Leeds' and we actually channel that," Radrizzani told FIFA's Professional Football Journal.

"All of our boys are willing to fight for the shirt every week and having that character is important to being a Leeds player.

"I want to help Leeds return to the level our history and fans deserve."