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The View From Pluto: Left Out of the NBA's Restart, the Cavs Shoot for a Summer League

A photo of Cavs players
R.J. ORIEZ/88TH AIR BASE WING
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WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB
The Cleveland Cavaliers may still play basketball before the 2020-2021 season.

The NBA has agreed on a plan to restart the season that was halted by the coronavirus pandemic in March. Twenty-two teams will compete at Disney World in Orlando beginning in August. But the Cleveland Cavaliers, last place in the Eastern Conference, are among the eight teams that didn’t qualify. 

WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto says the Cavs should still get a chance to play outside of the league's restart. 

A summer league for lottery teams
Pluto says several of the eight teams left out of Orlando are talking about holding some form of a summer league so players are not waiting around for several months. 

The NBA's summer league takes place after the season and following the NBA Draft. Teams bring their rookies and younger players to play in cities such as Las Vegas and Salt Lake City for development and growth. 

Pluto said there is discussion of the 2020-21 season starting Dec. 1, and potentially later. 

"You would be going from the middle of March to December sometime without playing a game," Pluto said. "Nobody who's an athlete wants to wait eight months to play. The coaches will go crazy because they don't like the idea of guys being on their own for that long."

He cautions the idea of a summer league for the eight teams is not yet finalized. 

"Nobody who's an athlete wants to wait eight months to play."

What about J.B. Bickerstaff and the young players?
J.B. Bickerstaff took over the helm as Cavs head coach from John Beilein, who stepped down at the All-Star Break. Bickerstaff coached 11 games, going 5-6 following the promotion before the league went on hiatus with 17 games remaining. The Cavs want to play those games rather than sitting around.

"It won't count for anything, but they'll play some sort of games. They will practice a lot," Pluto says. 

The team had 19-year-old Darius Garland playing with only 139 minutes of college basketball under his belt, contributing to a rocky rookie year, which wasn't a surprise. Pluto says giving Garland an opportunity to play more with second year guard Collin Sexton and fellow rookie Kevin Porter Jr. is important for their development with the lack of a traditional summer league.

The NBA's opportunity at MLB's expense
With Major League Baseball owners and players still arguing over how to start the season, Pluto says this gives the NBA a chance to have more time on the floor and the airwaves. 

"It's marketing, but it is accepting reality. The NBA accepted the reality in the COVID world, and baseball didn't."

"I think the NBA knows this: with baseball doing nothing and even if they finally get playing, they've done such a poor job of PR, it's wide-open for us!" Pluto said.

Pluto says that while the NFL owns the main field in American sports, this keeps the fans left out of Orlando watching basketball games. 

"When it comes to selling tickets for 2021, baseball's going to have a hard time, the NBA's going to have a hard time. So you want your fan base to be engaged in your team and think it's worth some sort of investment," he says.   

"It's marketing, but it is accepting reality. The NBA accepted the reality in the COVID world, and baseball didn't."

The NBA Draft
One advantage for the Cavaliers missing the restart is they already have better odds for the NBA Draft Lottery and the chance to get the first pick. 

"A good thing that the NBA came up with was they froze the order for the lottery. The Cavs get the second most ping pong balls, so they were happy about that," Pluto said.

With Cleveland holding the second-worst record behind the Golden State Warriors, the lowest Cleveland's pick can drop in the draft order is to No. 6 overall.