Sam Smith to Adam Silver: Include Everyone

"Don’t let the NBA commit the kind of fatal error that could ruin a quarter of the league."
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

Body

Sam Smith calls for Adam Silver to resume the season with all 30 NBA teams.

Please Adam, don't make a mistake the NBA will regret for years.

If you want to start the Covid-19 delayed season and go directly to the playoffs, then do so. It was such an unconventional season because of the suspension of play that it's a reasonable conclusion. But please don't highlight a Not So Elite Eight, of which the Bulls apparently would be part based on indications about the continuation of the NBA season in that so called protective "bubble" in Orlando. There are plenty of potential obstacles to having a champion. But don't deviate from the great legacy of the NBA that always has been about inclusion, equity and representing those with the least voice.

That's been on display once again as NBA players and teams have righteously and appropriately raised their voices in condemnation of the inexcusable violence in Minneapolis and the centuries of racism and intolerance that has been endemic to America as much as spacious skies, amber waves of grain and purple mountains majesty above the fruited plain.

It's understandable that the fewer people involved in Orlando the better chance the league has of completing this troubled season.

But to do so at the expense of the NBA's history of fairness could damage the league almost as much as it could the eight franchises that are rumored to be excluded from the season resumption when Silver makes his expected announcement Thursday.

The NBA's Unfortunate Eight are the Bulls, Timberwolves, Warriors, Hornets, Knicks, Pistons, Hawks and Cavaliers. Their seasons effectively are over because none was likely to make the playoffs, anyway. Which also is not the way a sports league works. If a team starts 5-35, it still finishes the season. Even if logic suggests no chance. Because it's a big family and a partnership. You don't remove the weakest out of convenience and that it's easiest. You fight for those who have the least voice. It's difficult to believe the NBA will designate eight franchises, including charter and historic members, with the scarlet I for ignominy.

The logic of the 22 — which seems transparent on the surface and also disingenuous in an apparent attempt to include popular Zion Williamson — is the arbitrary cutoff of being within six games of the eighth spot for the playoffs. But none of those extra six teams are going to win the championship. Though, No. 30 could. The Warriors have Stephen Curry healthy and perhaps by then Klay Thompson. And the NBA doesn't seem to want to include them, either.

Heck, I'd rather see Steph and Klay than the fragile Zion on load management in July.

The larger point in addition to the league's basic concept of fair treatment is the likely damage such a decision would do to those franchises, perhaps except for the Warriors with their recent championship history and glut of injuries.

What's so important about dismissing more than a half dozen franchises as irrelevant even as they include current All-Stars (Trae Young), young twosome stars (Karl-Anthny Towns and D'Angelo Russell) and popular veterans (Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin)? It's almost telling free agents to ignore those franchises because the NBA deems them irrelevant.

That's right: "We decided to finish the season and left them out. Pay them no attention." Why? "Because we felt like it."

Don't you think players around the league will notice? Bulls fans should be furious. Sure, it's been a disappointing season many would like to forget. But an historic franchise that has cooperated with the NBA (allowing league cameras and access for the Last Dance documentary and accepting Silver's pleas for a Chicago All-Star game) shouldn't be cast aside so easily like a soccer team dropped to the lower division. I'm sure the Bulls will be loyal and support the majority, but this seems so unlike Adam Silver to cause perhaps a quarter of the league's franchises potential recruitment and financial issues for years to come.

How is 22 so much more important and relevant than 30? Then why a 30-team league. Where is the players' association in this? That's more than a 100 of their members being told not to bother, that the league doesn't need you.

Plus, this is a vital time for the Bulls franchise with a new management team that basically never has seen its players. Practice and some extended training camp, as some have suggested for the Eliminated Eight, means nothing. Even Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy finally realized: You can't tell unless you see them in game competition. Let's see Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter, Kris Dunn and Coby White showing what they have to new bosses. It actually could be entertaining and effective.

No one is saying the NBA needs to finish the entire rest of the regular season, which would be 17 games for the Bulls.

It's also unfair to give teams like the Bulls a chance to be healthy and get lucky and maybe knock off a team that's 15 or 20 games ahead.

The league should protect the top eight in each conference.

Silver is usually especially innovative and has talked about tournaments and play in games. There's plenty of variations and options that are possible to make it an NCAA-like March Madness situation for half the league.

Maybe have that bottom eight play a few games to get a winner along with the favored six, at least for now. Maybe have the winners meet for the right to play No. 8 in the conference. It's not like the Lakers and Bucks have much to fear. And we'll likely be seeing some combination of those top teams, like the Lakers, Celtics, Bucks, Clippers, Raptors, Rockets, 76ers and Nuggets, by the end.

But then so what if someone gets knocked off?

The playoffs aren't a guarantee of only the best teams from the regular season winning. This obviously is an unusual season. But it still should be an enviable season and not an asterisk season. Most teams have played as many games already as the two lockout seasons in 1999 and 2012. The league is perhaps as rested and healthy as its ever been going into a playoffs after three months off.

There'll be some rust, sure. But there'll also be so many players healthy and recovered who wouldn't have been. It could be a great summer of basketball.

It's easy to say as a fan the NBA doesn't need those teams that weren't going anywhere nor doing much.

But it's inappropriate to tell those teams and their fan bases who have invested substantial time and money that it's been a waste and the NBA doesn't even believe they deserve a chance to play with the chosen teams. It's not the ethic that has been the foundation of everything the NBA has been about, justice, impartiality and competition. Don't let the NBA tell your team it doesn't matter. Please Adam, don't let the NBA commit the kind of fatal error that could ruin a quarter of the league.

Got a question for Sam?

Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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