Sports

Hield, Ayton head to Disney World to finish season

It’s official. Bahamians Chavano “Buddy” Hield and DeAndre Ayton will be re-starting their 2019-2020 NBA (National Basketball Association) season on July 31 after it was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic back on March 11.

The proposal to re-start the season was approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors on Thursday. The National Basketball Players Association (NPBA) on Friday approved further negotiations with the league.

The NBA is contingent in an agreement with Walt Disney Company to utilize Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, as the site where practices will be held, all the games will be played, and where the players will stay. There will be 22 teams that will be making the return; the other 14 teams’ seasons will come to an end and they will be in the lottery.

Both the NBA and the NBPA are teaming up with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials, working together to find a program that will ensure that the correct protocols and practices are in place.

“The board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “While the COVID-19

pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts.”

Ayton’s team, the Phoenix Suns, and Hield’s team, the Sacramento Kings, both made the cut to go to Orlando for a chance to make the playoffs.

The Kings currently sit in the 10th spot in the Western Conference of the NBA with a 28-36 win/loss record – three and a half games behind the 32-33 Memphis Grizzlies who occupy the eighth and final spot in the west. Sitting six games behind the Grizzles at 26-29 are the Suns.

“The 22 returning teams would be the 16 teams (eight per conference) in current playoff positions and the six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences,” as stated in a press release from the NBA. “Those two groups comprise teams with the NBA’s 22 best records.”

Both Bahamians still have a chance to make the playoffs, though the road is tough for both.

Each of the 22 teams will play eight games, as selected from its remaining regular-season match-ups. After those eight games are completed, the seven teams with the best records in each conference will earn themselves spots in the playoffs. In order to secure the eighth-seed in its conference, a team would have to have the eighth-best combined record in their respective conference and be more than four games ahead of the ninth-seeded team.

If the ninth-seeded team is four or fewer games behind the eighth-seeded team, then the teams will determine the eighth seed in a play-in tournament. In the play-in tournament, the eighth-seeded team would have to defeat the ninth-seeded team at least once. For the ninth-seeded team to advance, they would have to defeat the eighth-seeded team twice.

When all eight seeds are determined for both conferences, then the traditional playoff format will get underway. The NBA Finals will end no later than October 12.

Based on the Kings’ remaining schedule, Hield and his teammates will more likely play teams such as the Dallas Mavericks, the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat among others.

Ayton and his Suns will also likely face the Mavericks and Heat, and likely the Los Angeles Clippers as well.

No official schedule has been released as yet. Teams are expected to arrive in Orlando by July 7.

The other teams that will make the trip to Disney World are the Celtics, the Indiana Pacers, the Heat, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Toronto Raptors, the Mavericks, the Denver Nuggets, the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Clippers, the Grizzlies, the Washington Wizards, the Brooklyn Nets, the New Orleans Pelicans, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Orlando Magic, the Portland Trailblazers, the San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz.

Hield is the Mountain Dew NBA Three-Point Champion this season, and is averaging 19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. The Grand Bahamian is known for his long distance bombs. He has connected on 244 three-point shots this season, second in the league and 34 three-pointers shy of his career-high and franchise record of 278 from a year ago. It was the seventh most prolific shooting performance from downtown in NBA history. Hield is also the fastest player in league history to reach 800 made three-pointers. He accomplished that in 296 games.

Suns’ center Ayton was suspended for 25 games after opening night for violating the terms of the league’s anti-drug program. That did not stop him from returning to average a double-double so far this season. He is averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds per game – both career highs. He is also averaging a career-high in blocks at 1.7 per contest. Ayton became the fastest Suns player to reach 1,000 rebounds in team history.

The United States of America (USA) has the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with over 1.9 million persons confirmed – more than 1.2 million higher than the second-highest country, Brazil, according to the latest COVID-19 numbers, up to press time last night. They have recorded just over 110,000 deaths.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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