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And Now, Your Hoffman Estates Bulls!

How about a tournament in which an NBA team can win a draft-order lottery by winning? Or one where they can avoid being replaced in the NBA by the Gatorade League team based closest to them (for the Bulls that would be their Hoffman Estates-based affiliate)? Best idea yet! A combination of the two.

The Bulls were bad enough when their regular season was permanently suspended back in March that they are among the eight teams on the outs in the NBA. We learned last week that they don't qualify for the recently announced, "expanded so much it resembles an every-player-gets-a-trophy old-time youth sports event," 22-team NBA playoff set to kick off next month.

We also learned last week that the Bulls will be looking for something to do while the big event is happening rather than just keeping everything that might happen out on a basketball court essentially shut down for much of the rest of the year. Current projections have the NBA starting the 2020-21 season no earlier than Christmas.

The team's new management, led by vice president for basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley, appears to fear not doing anything during the next three months more than they fear having their players participate in some sort of an event that could expose them to the COVID-19 virus. And my guess is a sizable number of players agree - to a certain extent.

Regarding the 22-team tournament, many details have yet to be publicized but there must be a sort of fundamental agreement between players and management limiting lawsuits if someone gets sick. I fear this will cause personal injury attorneys to fling themselves off cliffs (then again, there is enough potential new liability in other areas to keep those guys busy for a while), but it has to happen.

Because when you really think about it, there is no way these teams can come together in contact competition pre-vaccine and believe that there is a system to prevent all infections.

The premier professional German soccer league, known gloriously as the Bundesliga (go ahead and say that out loud - Boon-dis-league-a - how fun is that?) has shown the way to a certain extent. One thing that has become clear after a couple weeks of Bundesliga live action is that you can have all sorts of standards regarding players not having hand-to-hand contact and a variety of other things, but those standards will slip.

And the extremely low fatality rate for people in the 15- to 25-year-old age range who contract the COVID-19 virus also has to be a consideration. If a player is in a confirmed risk group - because he has hypertension or some other pre-exisiting condition - they don't play. Something tells me there will be enough players to fill all the rosters even if a few are held out.

That doesn't mean you don't take precautions. It does mean not denying that some precautions work in all circumstances and some do not. It is that acknowledgement that has enabled Bundesliga (woo-hoo!) to play without masks. And their head coaches don't wear them either. And so far there have been no reports of positive tests among players since the games started.

The first thing we need for the consolation NBA tournament is a host, at least for the basketball part of it. I nominate the Bulls facility adjacent to the United Center. If you put the practice courts and the stadium court to use, you should be able to cycle teams through for what, three weeks worth of practices? And surely the Bulls could nail down an otherwise completely closed hotel that would house the teams for as long as they are playing in Chicago.

Then the games start: I propose you seed the teams in a bracket according to their records at the end of the season and then start with best-of-three quarterfinals. The second round is two best-of-three championship semifinals and two consolation semis. And the final round is a best-of-five championship series and two- or three-game series' for third, fifth and seventh. The primary motivation will be that teams will be slotted into the draft lottery based on where they finish, i.e., the championship series winner will be get the No. 1 pick, the third-place winner will be placed third and so on.

The team that loses the seventh-place series will not only draft eighth, it will also be relegated. The players on that team will start next season playing for the Hoffman Estates Bulls (also known as the Windy City Bulls). The players who were on the Hoffman Estates roster when their season was shut down in March will form the Bulls' roster for next season.

This will be a one-time situation unless it works so well that players and owners agree on having consolation tournaments for non-playoff participants at the end of future seasons. Not likely but also not impossible.

You're welcome and, Play ball!

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Comments welcome.

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