The NBA has suspended all physical games in an effort to combat the coronavirus outbreak, but nothing can stop the behemoth that is NBA 2K. With sports fans confined to their homes and video games taking on an important place as a distraction during this pandemic, the NBA has decided to take advantage of the platform to offer fans some semblance of live basketball. Beginning Friday, ESPN will air an NBA 2K tournament featuring 16 players over a 10-day period, the National Basketball Players Association announced on Tuesday.
Two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant headlines the list of names who will be competing, with Trae Young and Hassan Whiteside rounding out the top three seeds. Seeding of the tournament is based on the player’s 2K ranking, as well as the number of years they’ve been in the league.
The full list of matchups in order of seeding are:
While fans would undoubtedly prefer to see live basketball, this format has some distinct advantages. Theoretically, players could be mic’d up and trash-talk each other live on camera, something fans get to see very little of during actual television broadcasts of games. It also sends a strong message of social distancing, as basketball courts around the country have been caught on film filled with people. If NBA players are staying home and have found their own alternative to basketball, perhaps others will follow.
Even if the stakes of such a tournament are mere bragging rights, the idea of live competition featuring professional athletes will be a welcome change of pace in light of recent events. Fans are starved for something resembling professional sports after missing them for several weeks, and if nothing else, this tournament will feature some of their favorite athletes competing against one another at the highest level possible at the moment. From a social distancing perspective, it’s hard to ask for much more during this difficult time.
In this picture made with a fisheye lens, cars are readied for a NASCAR Xfinity Series auto race at Bristol Motor Speedway Monday, June 1, 2020, in Bristol, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
In this picture made with a fisheye lens, cars are readied for a NASCAR Xfinity Series auto race at Bristol Motor Speedway Monday. Noah Gragson won the race.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There is finally a break in this weird, new world of NASCAR after nine races over 16 days in three different states.
Brad Keselowski lucked into a pair of wins, new favorite son Chase Elliott lost three races (but won one) and Kyle Busch ticked off his haters simply by being himself.
Some rain interruptions aside, te racing has been good. The series is starting to find a rhythm and the story lines are strong. Even seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson has come close to winning his first race in more than three years.
But all is not entirely well.
A sport that prides itself on the access to its drivers is racing at empty tracks, most evident Sunday at cavernous Bristol Motor Speedway. The Tennessee bullring known as “The Last Great Colosseum” can hold about 140,000 fans and once boasted a 55-race sellout streak spanning 28 years.
It was jarringly empty on a spectacular day for racing Sunday. When Elliott and Joey Logano tangled on the track with just over a lap remaining — and when Logano gave Elliott a long stare on pit road — it was eerily silent.
In the old days, before the pandemic, the crowd would have been hysterical. In the new normal, the two drivers put on their mandatory face masks and had a peaceful discussion in front of dreary, gray grandstands.
“It’s kind of like, well, I guess we’ll go home,” runner-up Clint Bowyer said of the anticlimactic post-race dramatics. “I’m ready to have fans back. I think it’s time.”
Local tracks around the country have allowed spectators for at least the last two weekends. NASCAR, when it announced its second stretch of races through June 21 in Alabama, said the events would be without fans.
The pressure will grow to get fans back in the stands, particularly as more and more local tracks open the gates with their governors’ OK. If fans can attend South Alabama Speedway in Ozark, why can’t they go to the big show at Talladega Superspeedway in three weeks?
NASCAR has touted a health plan it was confident could get the teams back to the track and so far it has worked. No driver has failed the temperature checks required to enter the facilities so far. But it has been barely two weeks since Darlington Raceway hosted the first race back so it’s far too early to know if the plan is perfect.
Masks are still required and teams have been good sports about following the rules. But it’s going to get hotter and the days are long and the masks are going to become a nuisance. Social distancing is for the most part followed, but awareness is fading and teams were in clusters along pit road waiting for the Bristol race to start.
NASCAR already made a huge decision to get back to business after postponing eight Cup Series races. Now it will face another in deciding if the comeback is complete and fans can return.
The push for spectators is understandable because access is a cornerstone of racing’s popularity. The common fan can sit in the stands and eavesdrop on drivers via radio. They can camp in the infield with friends and sometimes run into their favorite driver out on a golf cart checking out the party scene. The lucky score a pit pass and get a front-row seat to every turn of a wrench or tire change.
The atmosphere is a corporate sponsor’s dream as executives, guests and clients get VIP treatment at the traveling circus. Right now, there is no essential need for a team owner to be at the track, so most don’t bother.
It’s not an ideal model and NASCAR executive Steve O’Donnell felt it Sunday. He s aid on Twitter that the action-packed ending was missing crowd reactions: “Nothing better than seeing the most passionate fans in sports at the track. When we get back in the Fall I hope it is a sellout!”
NASCAR has a few days off between Monday night’s Xfinity Series race and the Truck Series race Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The teams need the time to regroup, though the drivers are fine and seem to love the current one-day shows.
NASCAR officials, though, won’t get a break. They are facing hard decisions on how quickly to get back to the old days. One hopes those decisions won’t be made on false confidence.
MLB owners on Monday reportedly made a major shift in their negotiations with players on the structure of a 2020 season. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that MLB is now willing to honor the March accord in which players agreed to prorate their 2020 salaries based on the number of games played but are also angling for a much shorter regular season — in the neighborhood of 50 games, per Passan.
“Major League Baseball intends to propose a shorter season in which they would pay players a full prorated share of their salaries, sources told ESPN. The league believes the late March agreement allows it to set the schedule, and that this would fulfill players’ pro rata desire.”
Elsewhere, Jon Heyman notes that commissioner Manfred as part of that March agreement can unilaterally impose a regular season of any length so long as prorated salaries are paid and so long as bargaining has been deemed “good faith” in nature.
Throughout recent negotiations, owners had been insistent that players agree to further lower salaries in response to the strong likelihood that fans will not be in attendance for at least part of the 2020 season, the start of which has been delayed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Players consider the matter of compensation to be settled since, as noted, in March they agreed to prorated salaries. MLB, however, saw in that agreement the latitude to reopen negotiations.
Owners initially leaked to the public a plan in which they would split certain game-day revenues with players even though there was never any chance players would agree to such an arrangement. Then owners formally proposed salary reductions that would hit the highest-paid players the hardest. The union (MLBPA) countered by proposing a 114-game season with full prorated salaries. While that was counter to the owners’ initial insistence on not paying prorated wages, MLB may be ready to abandon that demand
If that’s indeed the case, then the number of games in the regular season appears to be the last major sticking point. Owners had initially proposed something along the lines of an 82-game regular season, so don’t be surprised if the final figure winds up in that range. Doing so would amount to a significant loss at the bargaining table for owners, given their recent demands and positions. Since a great deal of the national television revenues are tied to the postseason, the emphasis from the standpoint of management will be holding that postseason as soon as possible — so as to reduce the chances of the season being scuttled by a second COVID-19 outbreak in the fall — and for as long as possible. As has been credibly rumored throughout, an expanded playoff field seems highly likely.
Most important, though, Passan’s report suggests a potential step forward in negotiations and the clearest sign yet that an agreement is likely.
Coverage continues on the Sky Sports app from 7.30pm every evening
Last Updated: 01/06/20 7:25pm
Nathan Aspinall is the headline attraction in Group Seven of the PDC Home Tour Play-Offs with a semi-final place up for grabs.
The Asp will be the favourite and is one of the highest-ranked players left in the competition, but Jose De Sousa looks a more than dangerous threat.
The Portuguese thrower dropped just a single leg in his first phase success and he will be joined by Spain’s Jesus Noguera and Wolverhampton’s Jamie Hughes in looking to deny Aspinall a place in Thursday’s semi-final.
PDC Home Tour – Monday’s fixtures (Group Seven)
Nathan Aspinall v Jesús Noguera
Jamie Hughes v Jose De Sousa
Jesús Noguera v Jose De Sousa
Nathan Aspinall v Jamie Hughes
Jamie Hughes v Jesús Noguera
Jose De Sousa v Nathan Aspinall
Monday night’s winner will join Rob Cross and Joe Cullen in the second semi-final group after the paired recorded 100 per cent records over the last two nights of action.
Semi-Final Group One will be headlined by Gary Anderson and Dave Chisnall, while Mike De Decker and Jelle Klaasen will join them in the chase for the two places in Friday’s Championship Group.
The 32-player second phase is reaching its conclusion with just two groups remaining before the semi-finals.
Players have been seeded in order of their PDC Order of Merit ranking for the last 32, and placed into groups based on the regular PDC seeding pattern. The players who win groups one to four will proceed to play in semi-final one on Wednesday with the winners from groups five to eight moving through to semi-final two on Thursday.
The top two players from each of the semi-final groups will then move through to compete in the Championship Group on Friday.
All games from the last 32 onwards are the best of 11 legs, with each group being a round-robin format.
PDC Home Tour – Remaining Play-Offs groups
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