D.A.: 10 Biggest Surprises From The NBA's Restart

One week into the NBA restart, the Orlando bubble has been full of revelations

Damon Amendolara
August 06, 2020 - 7:44 am

We're now a week into basketball's reboot in Orlando. The bubble has been full of revelations so far. Let's count down what's impressed or disappointed most in the march back toward the NBA playoffs. 

10) The Pels kept Zion in the holster. New Orleans has a good, fun, young core and a chance to make the playoffs. Clearly, the NBA knew it would be good for interest if Williamson and the Pelicans had eight games to qualify, so the league opened up the field wide enough to get them in. But keeping Zion benched for most of the first two games suggested the front office didn't care much about the postseason nor the interest of TV execs. 

9) The broadcasters sound crisp. Kevin Harlan told us on the show the process of calling a game in the bubble is completely foreign. The broadcast teams are not courtside as usual, but instead stationed multiple levels up and away from the action. Plexiglass windows have been installed between members of the same telecasts. The usual sights and sounds are now out of reach for those calling the game, there's no fans to feed off, and you're talking to your partner through a window like it's a correctional facility. The fact most viewers can't tell is a complement to the pros behind the mics. 

8) Lou Williams is an anomaly. When the Clippers guard was busted eating wings at a strip club, some thought this was just the beginning. How many players would sneak off campus and put themselves in bad situations? Instead it seems that Sweet Lou was a warning to any player fearing embarrassment or a fine. We haven't had any other cases, and it appears players are taking their responsibility seriously. 

7) The Nets beat the Bucks. It's only one game, but it was a doozy. For the first time since the early ‘90s, a 19-point underdog won when Brooklyn topped Milwaukee this week. The odds were so stacked against a Nets team with a G-League roster, Vegas offered only a $32 return if you laid a grand on the Bucks winning outright. Yes, Giannis and Khris Middleton sat in the second half. But the Nets also hung close in the first half when they were playing. This is one of the most humiliating losses in recent NBA history. 

6) The Celtics seem out of sync. Will the real Boston squad please stand up? We've seen a C's team all over the map since the restart. Fantastic efforts by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown carried them past the Blazers. They cruised past the undermanned Nets. But they also got outplayed by two of their fellow Eastern contenders in Milwaukee and Miami. The C's could be dangerous or a pushover. Who knows?

5) The Blazers look complete. Portland entered the season with high hopes, especially in a conference that had cleared Golden State out of the way. But injuries ravaged the start of their season and it appeared this was a lost cause. Fast-forward to the bubble and with a roster returning to full strength, plus the exciting redemption of Carmelo Anthony, the Blazers suddenly become an extremely interesting team in the West. 

4) There aren't more complaints. When players arrived we saw social media posts of bland food and underwhelming room service. Would millionaire athletes in their 20s and 30s be bored to tears at Disney World without any attractions? It felt like this had the potential to be the lamest party ever thrown, and all the popular kids would complain about it at school. Instead we haven't heard a peep. Maybe the novelty is still there. Perhaps by next month teams will be fed up. But right now it's been quiet. 

3) The players are testing negative. What a huge testament to the discipline of the athletes involved and the staff as well. Instead of dealing with DEFCON 4 situations like the Marlins and Cardinals, the NBA has had a quiet restart. Entering the "seeding games" the league had zero positive tests after two weeks in the bubble. The grand experiment has succeeded to this point. 

2) The digital fans work. No fans equals no juice, right? Well, not exactly. While there aren't live spectators at these games, the 2D versions aren't bad. Unlike the staid, stationary cardboard cutouts in baseball, the NBA "fans" are actually moving and reacting in real time to the game. It took innovation to think of arming fans at home with iPads to project themselves to the game. It's worked far better than it sounded in theory. 

1) The action is urgent. The biggest shock has to be the actual play on the court. The players have shown intensity and avoided the expected apathy that could come with playing in front of empty arenas after four months off. There hasn't been any evident rust to the game flow. The players are giving it their all at the end of games. The "seeding games" do matter in the standings, but many of us felt teams would simply go through the motions at a neutral site arena without fans. We've been wrong, and thankfully so. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 6:00AM-10:00AM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.