It appears the NBA is back.
Multiple reports Wednesday morning indicated that on Thursday’s conference call with the league’s Board of Governors, commissioner Adam Silver will present a plan that consists of 22 teams returning (13 Western Conference, nine Eastern Conference) to play eight regular-season games apiece, a possible play-in tournament for the eighth seed in each conference, to be followed by a traditional 16-team, four-round playoff.
A source told The Associated Press that the league has informed the National Basketball Players Association of its intention to present the 22-team return plan.
The conference call will take place Thursday at 10:30 a.m. MT, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski cited sources in reporting the Board of Governors intends to approve Silver’s plan.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the regular season games would be slated to resume July 31. All the games will take place within the Walt Disney World complex in Orlando, Fla.
The NBA has been on hiatus since Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 in Oklahoma City back on March 11.
Per Wojnarowski, the teams invited to return are the 16 who were in playoff position when the standings were frozen on March 12: The Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference; the Los Angeles Lakers, L.A. Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference, plus the six teams who were within six games of playoff position — Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns.
Charania said that the eight regular-season games will be used to establish playoff seeding, with the top seven seeds in each conference definitively set after those games. The New York times noted those would also provide “enough regular-season games to help some teams meet their contractual obligations with regional television networks, which would help mitigate significant losses of revenue.”
If, after that time, the eighth-place teams are more than four games ahead of the ninth-place teams, they will earn the eighth seed outright; but if the ninth-place teams are within four or fewer games, a play-in tournament will take place which is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth.
The AP said that “there are still some elements of the restart plan that could be changed, and other matters are still being negotiated — such as how much of a percentage of their contracts that players will lose because some regular season games will be canceled.”
Still, reporter Keith Smith cited sources in saying that “the NBA’s expectation is that the plan to restart the season is expected to pass nearly unanimously. The teams holding out hope for a different plan have mostly been swayed that this plan is best for the NBA as a whole.”
Smith, who has a history with the Disney corporation, cited sources from that company as saying Disney World anticipates having some 2,000 rooms reserved for NBA personnel, and that “the plan for now is to play in two different arenas with multiple games per day. … Playoffs will be 2-4 games per day for early rounds. 1-2 games after.”
The league is expected to give teams a few weeks to get players to reconvene in their home markets, following which training camps are expected to begin at team sites in early July. Teams are expected to shift to Orlando in the middle of the month and resume training there before games begin again.
As far as safety protocols to be established within the “bubble” atmosphere on the Disney campus, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that “while players and coaches will be allowed to golf or eat at outdoor restaurants, they will also need to maintain social distancing.”
Smith’s Disney sources “have been consistent all along that it will be up to the NBA to determine where their personnel are and aren't allowed to go while at Walt Disney World.”
Charania reported that among the other safety and medical protocols that will be enacted: players will not shower in the arenas, but rather in their own hotel rooms; bench players will sit in spread-out rows, and inactive players will sit in the stands; no family members or guests will be allowed until the playoffs.
ESPN reported that the NBA intends to have daily, uniform coronavirus testing in place, and that should any player test positive for COVID-19, the league’s intent would be to remove that player from the team and quarantine him separately. Shelburne also reported that “Employees at the Disney resort will have to maintain similar protocols. For example, no staff will be allowed into players’ rooms, and hallways will be carefully managed to avoid crowding.”