The Knicks won’t join the Nets in Orlando. But the Nets could still join the Knicks in the lottery.
The 22-team proposal to restart the season that is expected to be approved Thursday by the Board of Governors has made the Nets’ playoff plans a little more precarious than the other 22-team scenario.
In one version of the 22-team proposal, the Nets would’ve had no shot at a play-in event. In that scenario, the six extra non-playoff seeds would’ve staged an eight-team play-in tournament with the two No. 8 seeds. The Nets would’ve been safely tucked in at No. 7.
But the NBA is going way more elaborate with an extensive restart in Disney World that will feature eight regular-season games per involved team starting July 31. The Nets could play themselves out of it, though it would probably take a 2-6 showing.
The eight regular-season games would make a Kevin Durant – and Kyrie Irving – return a little more feasible. It would give Durant more lead-up time to the playoffs. Thursday is the one-year anniversary of when Durant tore his Achilles tendon during the NBA Finals.
By July 31, Durant will have been out nearly 14 months. Irving will have been out five months.
The Nets are concerned Durant’s Achilles rehab was interrupted too severely and his return to the court for the restart is doubtful.
In March, Durant was up to 5-on-5 scrimmages with Nets bench players and player developmental coaches, which was the last stage of his return process. But the pandemic put him off the court for more than two months as he was building up.
Nets president Sean Marks has left it open but gave a hint in his last interview earlier this month when he noted he can’t wait to see him play in Brooklyn. Ultimately, though, the decision will rest with KD.
Meanwhile, the Nets may not even make the playoffs for a KD return. The Nets (30-34) lead No. 8 Orlando by a half-game. The Wizards are in ninth – 5 ½ games out of the No. 8 seed.
If the Nets fall to eighth after the eight regular-season games and the Wizards are within four games of the final playoff spot, a play-in will result between the Nets and Wizards. The No. 8 seed would have the edge, needing to win just once while the Wizards would have to win twice.
The Nets have not fared well against the Wizards this season, losing both times, and they are expected to face off in one of the regular-season contests.
With the Nets all-in on winning the title in 2021, a lottery berth wouldn’t be the absolute worst scenario if not making the playoffs during the restart is the definite formula the NBA will use to fill out the rest of the lottery field.