Before the NBA’s suspension of its season on March 11, the Pistons had a very slim chance of making the playoffs. They were 20-46 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak and with 12 losses in their previous 13 games.
Most importantly, with 16 games remaining, they were 10.5 games behind the Orlando Magic, who had the last postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.
Their season was on its last legs.
Then came Wednesday’s news that the NBA Board of Governors is preparing to vote Thursday on a proposal to have 22 teams finish the season, each playing an eight-game schedule to determine the playoff seeds. That idea brought more optimism to the idea that the regular season will finish.
The resumed season wouldn’t include the Pistons, who have the fifth-worst record.
The Pistons’ season will be over if the Board of Governors approves the recommendation — as many NBA insiders believe they will.
The resumption of the season, targeted for July 31, will take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex on the Disney campus near Orlando, according to the Associated Press and other media outlets.
The plan calls for nine East teams and 13 West teams vying for eight playoff spots in each conference. A play-in series would determine the No. 8 seed in both conferences, for a 16-team playoff, but only if the ninth-place team is within four games of eighth place.
Playoffs would start in August and would conclude in October.
It’s an unceremonious finish for the Pistons, who have made the playoffs just twice in the past five years. They’ll have an important offseason, where they’ll make some important decisions about the roster and take a look at free agency for some possible fits.
“It would be great to go ahead and have a season because it would give (our young players) a chance to get experience and to play,” coach Dwane Casey said this week, “but at the same time, does it make sense (from a health perspective) if we’re not going to be in the playoffs?”
The Pistons announced Wednesday that they will reopen their Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center on Thursday, allowing players to return for voluntary, individual workouts.
It’s an opportunity for players to get individual attention from assistant coaches and development coaches and for some, it’s a chance to get back in a gym, if they didn’t have them in their local areas during the pandemic.
Part of the benefit of only having 22 teams return instead of the all 30 is that leaving out the eight teams limits the number of teams in the “bubble” and reduces some of the risk of COVID-19 spreading, along with maintaining some competitive balance of the remaining teams.
For the Pistons, returning to play even eight games would have presented a quandary in whether it would have been worth working for two or three weeks in a mini-camp in order to prepare for only a handful of games
“I’m ready to go ASAP,” guard Langston Galloway said last week. “I’ve been putting my body through the wringer, being able to do everything on my own … and do the best I can to stay in the best shape.”
Having more games would have been a benefit for the Pistons’ cadre of young players, including rookie Sekou Doumbouya, Khyri Thomas, Bruce Brown and Jordan Bone. Veterans such have Derrick Rose could be at a higher risk of being injured, which was another concern.
For the eight teams left out of the remaining season, there could be some additional time allowed for team workouts, for the games that they’re missing. How that plays out is unclear.
In their tailspin, the Pistons were a half-game from falling to one of the three worst records in the league, which would give them the best odds to get the top pick in the NBA draft lottery. The NBA hasn’t announced how it will handle the lottery, but the eight teams who didn’t finish the season could be given different odds for the No. 1 pick than when they finished on March 11.
That way, those teams that played different numbers of games could be put on a more equal footing with respect to odds to get the top pick or a selection in the top four.
The tentative plan for the draft is sometime in October, after the proposed finish to the NBA Finals would be around Oct. 12. Free agency could begin soon thereafter.