If the NBA doesn’t come back this season — and while the league says all options are open it still might not — because of the coronavirus pandemic, here are the five biggest losers:
1) LeBron James
His historic season — he’s the only player to average 25 points and 10 assists at 35 or older — might net him the MVP but he’d lose a precious chance to win a fourth ring and lead the Lakers to an NBA record-tying 17th title.
2) The Milwaukee Bucks
If there’s a lesson to be learned from the early episodes of ESPN’s Michael Jordan docuseries “The Last Dance” it’s that great players can respond to postseason failures with incredible fury. Giannis Antetokounmpo was set to enter the upcoming playoffs after losing four in a row to Toronto last year with a 2-0 series lead. With only one year left on his deal after this season, the clock is ticking.
3) The Clippers
The Clippers’ plan for their first title wasn’t contingent on a single postseason, but the team was rounding into form at the right time, a sign that their plan worked. With stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard having complicated injury pasts, what are the odds that happens again?
4) Mike D’Antoni
The Houston Rockets coach came into this season with one year left on his contract, meaning he’d need a deep run in the playoffs to convince the franchise to not make a change. If the season does not resume, has he shown enough to keep him, James Harden and Russell Westbrook together?
5) NBA fans
After years of the Golden State Warriors dominating the West and with James firmly cemented with the Lakers, the 2020 NBA Finals were probably going to look very different for the first time in a while. And then there’s that Clippers-Lakers playoff series everyone wanted so badly. It won’t be the same in an empty Staples Center if it happens.