Mark Jackson on possibilities of NBA’s return: ‘You want to make sure this thing passes and everybody is safe’

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If the NBA ever resumes this season, it will be operating in an unprecedented time crunch.

That has led to wide-ranging ideas about how it can possibly crown a fair champion, with a single-elimination tournament being floated as a potential solution. Mark Jackson, the former All-Star and current ABC analyst, is entirely against that format.

“I’m not with that at all. Not a single-elimination tournament,” Jackson told the Daily News. “Because this is a league of great, great talent. And the worst team can beat the best team one night. So that doesn’t make you the champion.

“I don’t think that would be fair at all. And as a fan of the game, I just wouldn’t co-sign them at all. I think the best thing to do is if we can get them in one location that sounds great where we can minimize the danger or the concerns and crown a champion at the end.”

The NBA can’t lock into plans of resumption given the fluidity and uncertainty of the coronavirus’ spread. Sports leaders were hoping the monitor the situation in China, where the basketball league had plans of playing in April without fans. But the Chinese government issued an order further restricting sporting events, according to ESPN, and now its season is again postponed indefinitely.

Among the NBA’s proposals is holding all games in a single site without fans. According to CNBC, Las Vegas has emerged as the most likely destination.

But what about the rest of the regular season?

How many games or rounds can the NBA fit into an abbreviated postseason?

Regardless of the format, Jackson cautioned against rushing players back on the court.

“You want to make sure this thing passes and everybody is safe. And if that’s the scenario then I definitely think it’s important you give the guys an opportunity — as a former player and former coach and being around this game — you can’t just jump right back into playing,” Jackson said. “You have to give some sort of — I don’t know, a week or so — and even then they won’t be 100 percent. But just to make sure you protect the guys and making sure there’s no injuries on the court because you rushed them back. Commissioner Silver has done an incredible job thus far leading the way. I’m sure he’s going to make the right decision.”

Adding to the complications is the ban on practicing because it doesn’t comply with social distancing guidelines. Many players, including several Knicks, have left their home team’s market.

“At least a week of practicing before playing again. And that’s assuming that guys right now are getting in whatever workout they can get in,” Jackson said. “It’s nothing that you can duplicate or replicate from playing basketball, being on the court. I don’t care what you try to do. It’s nothing like playing 5-on-5, running the court, the physical nature of the game takes its toll on you. That’s the best conditioning possible and right now guys don’t have that.”

Finances and legacies are at stake. The NBA has already lost revenue and will drop more if it cancels the entire season. It can also withhold the remaining salaries of its players. Players who’ve poured so much effort into the season — such as 35-year-old LeBron James — may never again have a better shot at a championship.

Jackson, who is healthy with his family in Southern California, believes the players are understanding of the circumstances and their greater responsibility.

“It would be tough but I think LeBron on down, I think the main thing is guys are concerned about the safety of this world, of this country, of their loved ones. And you want to make sure that’s right,” Jackson said. “And that’s more important than a NBA championship. Let’s win a championship defeating this virus and putting everybody back to a sense of normal life that we’ve become accustomed to.”


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