Lakers Clippers Basketball

L.A. Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard dunks as L.A. Lakers guard Alex Caruso watches during the teams’ game on March 8. Both L.A. teams were having big seasons.

With the ongoing COVID-19 concerns in America, the chances of the NBA restarting the 2019-20 season appear increasingly slim. If the season does end up being lost, there are plenty of storylines that won’t be able to reach conclusions.

There is a reason why playing the games is so critical because nothing is a certainty. That’s why it’s difficult to crown individual honors and especially challenging to crown a champion after such an abrupt stoppage in play. Even if the NBA were to reschedule the season, the players wouldn’t be in a rhythm and the same results almost certainly wouldn’t occur.

So much of a player’s legacy is determined by championships. This season was arguably the most open it’s been in a long time without a dynasty running the table like in recent years. Teams like the Bucks, Lakers and Clippers all appeared to have legitimate chances of competing for the title and may not have the opportunity yet.

Not only will the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo potentially miss out on being named a two-time league MVP, he also may not be able to compete for his first NBA championship. At just 25 years old, managing to the highest individual honor in professional basketball and be the top player on a title team would have been highly impressive.

The Clippers may miss out on their ability to win the first championship in their franchise’s history. In addition, Kawhi Leonard would have become just the third player in league history to win a title with three different franchises. That level of impact could have put his name in the conversation as one of the league’s all-time greatest players.

That same honor Leonard could have achieved would have been something LeBron James would have accomplished had the Lakers won the NBA Finals, too. Being able to notch a fifth championship overall could have added even more fuel to the debate regarding who is the greatest player in league history.

Time is running out for James to win more championships, too. There is no guarantee he will manage to stay healthy as he gets older. Had the Lakers been on track to win it all this season and it’s taken away from them, they could possibly miss out on winning it all in the James era. That would have a real impact on NBA history in itself.

Keep in mind, the main co-stars for the Lakers and Clippers could have done some serious good for their legacies by being a star on a championship team. The Clippers’ Paul George has made it to two Eastern Conference Finals in his career and winning a title in addition to that could have boosted his profile. As for the Lakers’ Anthony Davis, he’s made it out of the first round just once and could certainly use more playoff series wins.

The NBA isn’t played just so the most talented players can build their profile by racking up hardware. The entertainment value factor that the fans will be missing out on is an unfortunate aspect to think about. This year’s playoffs appeared to be set to have tons of intriguing matchups for each respective conference.

En route to the NBA Finals could have been no shortage of intriguing matchups across the bracket. The Staples Center could possibly have been the venue for the entire Western Conference Finals as the Lakers and Clippers were expected to both make it that far. A potential Eastern Conference Finals showdown between the Bucks and Raptors could have been special as well.

Let’s not forget about the intriguing early round showdowns that could have been. For starters, the Dallas Mavericks were on track to face the Clippers in the opening round. A series featuring Leonard and George going up against Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis could have been a fascinating sight to behold.

The future of the NBA could have been impacted by the Houston Rockets either failing miserably with their super small ball or by achieving surprising results. They were slotted to face the Denver Nuggets, who deploy an elite but very slow-footed center in Nikola Jokic. That had real potential to be a telling series about clashing play styles.

There was a race building for the final spot in the Western Conference playoff picture that will probably be cut short regardless of what the NBA does. The Memphis Grizzlies were being kept afloat by Ja Morant with a 3.5-game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings, but it was still something to watch, nevertheless. We won’t get to see Morant, Zion Williamson or Damian Lillard try to carry their respective team for a series.

Even on a lesser note, the feel-good story of the Oklahoma City Thunder trading away two superstars and still managing to be in the fifth seed won’t be able to play out. They could have faced a favorable matchup against the Utah Jazz in the opening round of the playoffs. Chris Paul managing to achieve that would have boosted the perception of his impact despite his age.

There are negative storylines that could be delayed or protected by the suspension of the season, too. Had the Indiana Pacers lost yet another first-round series, would that have been the end of the Nate McMillan coaching era? Would the Philadelphia 76ers losing in the opening round amplify questions about keeping their key players or gotten coach Brett Brown fired? The list goes on and on from this standpoint.

While it’s possible to project possible outcomes to the 2019-20 season, playing the games truly matters. Heading into the 2018-19 season, the consensus opinion was that the Golden State Warriors were the consensus favorites and it was unfair they signed DeMarcus Cousins. The Raptors ended up winning it all after injuries occurred. We will never know what could have happened had the season continued as usual.

Grant Afseth is the Tribune’s Pacers columnist. He may be reached at grantafseth@indianasportscoverage.com.

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