The NBA board of governors have approved a 22-team format to restart the 2019-20 season in Orlando, Florida, the league announced. According to ESPN, the vote was 29-1, with the Portland Trail Blazers voting against.
Under the plan, nine Eastern Conference teams and 13 Western Conference teams will play eight regular-season “seeding” games, a possible play-in tournament for the eighth seed and playoffs at the Walt Disney World Resort.
“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts. We also recognize that as we prepare to resume play, our society is reeling from recent tragedies of racial violence and injustice, and we will continue to work closely with our teams and players to use our collective resources and influence to address these issues in very real and concrete ways.”
Here’s where it gets complex.
The top 16 teams in the Eastern and Western conferences will be joined by teams currently within six games of eighth place in the two conferences — New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio, Sacramento, Phoenix and Washington.
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The play-in tournament will include the No. 8 and No. 9 teams in a conference — if the ninth seed finishes the regular season within four games of the eighth. In that case, the No. 9 seed would need to beat the No. 8 seed twice to earn the playoff berth, while the No. 8 would need one win from the two potential games.
Teams will begin training in Orlando starting July 9-11, sources said.
The league offered dates beyond the July 31-Oct. 12 season window, with the draft lottery set on Aug. 25, the NBA draft on Oct. 15 and the 2020-21 season likely beginning Dec. 1.
Sources told ESPN that free agency could begin Oct. 18, with training camps starting Nov. 10, though teams were told to consider the free-agency date as flexible.
Some members of the board of governors whose teams were left out of the Orlando restart disagreed with the 22-team format but decided to cast “yes” votes.
The preliminary expectations on the league’s plans for the 22-team format in Orlando, include:
- The regular season will extend 16 days, with five to six games per day.
- There will be four hours between games on each individual court to accommodate overtimes, cleanings and warm-ups. The league will be using three courts in the complex for games.
- In the eight-game regular-season format, each team is expected to play one back-to-back.
- The NBA is expected to be aggressive in moving up the dates to start playoff series when the previous round’s series come to an end.
- The NBA Finals format is expected to include games every other day.
The Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds mapped out a hypothetical schedule for each team:
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Life in the NBA bubble will be governed by a set of safety protocols. While players and coaches will be allowed to golf or eat at outdoor restaurants, they also will need to maintain social distancing, sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
According to the plan, there will be daily testing for the coronavirus within the Disney campus environment.
If a player tests positive for the virus, the league’s intent would be to remove that player from the team to quarantine and treat individually — and continue to test other team members as they play on, sources said.
The NBA said the season resuming is contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Co., which also owns ESPN, to use the Resort for all games, practices and housing.