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Quick turnaround for Hield, Ayton

Sheldon Longley

 Chavano ‘Buddy’ Hield (left) and DeAndre Ayton.

The schedule is yet to be released, but at least Chavano “Buddy” Hield and DeAndre Ayton have some idea of when they will get back to work.

The two Bahamians in the National Basketball Association (NBA) were both instrumental in their teams’ successes during the 2019-2020 season, helping them reach the seeding games for a chance to make the playoffs, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, in Orlando, Florida. The NBA shut down its season because of the novel coronavirus pandemic on March 11, and then took 22 of its 30 teams to Orlando to resume the season in July.

On Monday, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced that they have collectively struck a deal on rules for this coming season, including when games will commence and how many games will be played.

The NBA returns on December 22, and teams will engage in a 72-game season – just 10 less than the regular 82-game schedule for each team and setting a stage for a return to normalcy as early as the 2021-2022 season. The schedule will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Additionally, the NBA Draft is set for November 18 and negotiations with free agents can start as early as 6 p.m. on November 20, just two days later. Signings can start as early as 12:01 p.m. on November 22. It’s the shortest ever turnaround between seasons in NBA history, and an unusually short time period between the start of free agent negotiations and signings. Training camps will get underway on December 1.

Ayton is in the third year of a rookie deal with the Phoenix Suns, with an option for a fourth year. He’s the starting center for the Suns and improved significantly in his second year in the league, helping to lead his team to the bubble games in Orlando where they finished with an 8-0 win/loss record and just missed playing in the play-in game for an opportunity to go to the playoffs.

As for Hield, despite signing a four-year contract extension with the Sacramento Kings last year, the sharp shooting two guard remains a hot item among trade talks in the NBA. Hield reportedly became disgruntled after being benched last season, but still put up respectable numbers, averaging almost just as much points in significantly less minutes.

Ayton will likely remain with the Suns for the foreseeable future, but Hield could be playing elsewhere given the apparent fallout with Kings Head Coach Luke Walton and that franchise.

Be that as it may, it will certainly be a quick turnaround for both of them when the season resumes next month. Both the Suns and Kings played their final seeding games on August 13. After four months of rest, they will be back on the court. For the NBA Champions Los Angeles Lakers and Eastern Conference Champions Miami Heat, it will be the shortest offseason in NBA history – with just seven weeks separating the end of the NBA Finals and the planned December 1 start of training camp.

The NBA offseason usually stretches about five to six months from the end of the regular season to the start of training camp. The break is usually about two to three months for teams in the NBA Finals.

For Ayton and Hield, both had impressive seasons in 2020 despite the turmoil brought forward by the coronavirus pandemic. Ayton averaged 18.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 54.6 percent from the field. Hield averaged 19.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and three assists in a little over 30 minutes per game. The fourth-year guard shot 42.9 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from distance. He hit 271 three-pointers in a shortened season and was on pace to surpass the franchise record of 278 three-pointers that he set in 2019 before COVID-19 forced a stoppage in play.

As for the upcoming season, the league said in a statement that a new system will be used to ensure that the split of basketball-related income continues, one of the many details that had to be worked out with the union. A major issue is how the league will address health and safety concerns seeing that the games won’t be played in the safety of a bubble and that teams will be traveling to various cities once again.

For the eight teams that didn’t advance to the NBA restart inside the bubble, it has been a marathon offseason, with none of those teams having played since the second week of March.

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