Celtics

NBA return format: Details of league's 22-team plan to resume season

NBA return format: Details of league's 22-team plan to resume season

The 2019-20 NBA season is back on.

The NBA Board of Governors approved a plan allowing the season to resume at Walt Disney World in Orlando under a 22-team format, league commissioner Adam Silver confirmed Thursday.

The plan passed by a 29-1 vote among teams, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania, who reported the Portland Trail Blazers were the lone dissenters.

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“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” Silver 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 are some notable details about the restart plan, per the NBA:

- The proposed start date is July 31st.

- The 22 teams will include the 16 clubs currently in a playoff spot -- eight from the Eastern Conference and eight from the Western Conference -- and six additional teams within six games of the No. 9 seed in their respective conference.

Those teams are the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns in the West and the Washington Wizards in the East.

- Each team will play eight "seeding games" that will determine playoff seeding in each conference. Those games will be selected from each team's remaining regular-season matchups.

While the league hasn't confirmed the schedule of those games, the Boston Celtics could be looking at an eight-game slate against the Milwaukee Bucks, Wizards, Toronto Raptors, Brooklyn Nets, Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat.

The Celtics currently are guaranteed a playoff spot as the No. 3 seed in the East. They're three games back of the No. 2 seed Raptors and 2.5 games ahead of the No. 4 seed Heat, so their seeding could change in that eight-game span.

These details all assume the league can create a safe playing environment amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the main takeaway is an exciting one: Basketball is back!

Good news for Celtics: Kemba Walker 'ready to go' after 'needed' break

Good news for Celtics: Kemba Walker 'ready to go' after 'needed' break

Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Kemba Walker admitted he “wasn’t really happy” with the way he was playing before the 2019-20 NBA season paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, but said after a “needed” break that allowed him to rest a bothersome knee, he’s eager to get back on the court with his teammates for the Orlando restart.

Walker declared himself, “ready to go,” after using the downtime to heal a knee that hindered him over the final six weeks of play.

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“[The break was] super important for me. I really, really needed to get that break,” said Walker. "It definitely helped me get back to myself and start to feel comfortable on my knee. It was a very unfortunate time but it was in my best interests for sure. So I’m pretty comfortable with the way the schedule is and I’m just going to keep on taking care of myself. That’s really all I can do, so I’m just going to stay on top of things and take it day by day.”

Walker earned his All-Star nod by averaging 22 points per game while shooting 38.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc through the end of January. A sore knee first forced him to sit out on January 18 but sidelined him for two longer stretches — and nine total games — in February. Walker averaged just 16.8 points while shooting 31.7 percent overall and 31.3 percent beyond the 3-point arc in his final eight games before the season paused.

Some of Walker’s struggles were masked by Jayson Tatum’s ascension. But the Celtics know they need a healthy Walker to reach their loftiest goals in Orlando.

"I’m definitely ready to try and expand my game to higher levels so we can just be a better team,” said Walker. "Especially the way I ended the season, I wasn’t really happy with the way I was playing. So I’m excited.”

Walker admitted he’s still trying to get back into game shape. But the downtime allowed him to really examine how he can best help the Celtics.

“I’m a lot more comfortable, especially realizing the change and everything that went down during the season, the ups and downs,” said Walker. "I’m definitely more comfortable with my teammates. We’ve been talking all quarantine. I got a chance to watch a lot of games over the quarantine, so, yeah, I think I’m more comfortable. I’m ready to go.

"We're pretty excited. I know everyone is just excited to see each other. From Day 1, honestly, with this team, our vibe and our chemistry was already there for a very long time. That first day anybody had seen anyone, it was like we were with each other yesterday, you know? It's that kind of team we have. We're just so close and we're just looking forward to going out there and just handling our business.”

Walker said he’s not particularly concerned about the recent COVID spike in Florida and believes the NBA will do everything to ensure player safety. As for worries about being stuck inside the bubble for a particularly lengthy stretch if the Celtics embark on a long playoff run, Walker dismissed that while noting, “All I do is stay in the house anyways, so there's nothing wrong with me staying in a [hotel] room.”

Added Walker: "I'm actually looking forward to it just because I'm ready to play basketball.”

2020 NBA restart: No Celtics have opted out of Orlando, Brad Stevens says

2020 NBA restart: No Celtics have opted out of Orlando, Brad Stevens says

The Boston Celtics plan on being fully operational in Orlando later this month.

None of Brad Stevens' players have informed him they won't play in the NBA's restarted 2019-20 season, the Celtics head coach confirmed Wednesday in a video conference with reporters.

Stevens also confirmed no Celtics players or staffers have tested positive for COVID-19 since the NBA began testing in early June.

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Players still can opt out of the NBA "bubble" at any point before or during the eight-game "seeding" round, which for Boston begins July 31 with a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. But July 1 was the NBA's imposed deadline for players to opt out to allow teams to sign replacement players, and it appears that deadline will pass with the Celtics' roster intact.

Several players from the other 21 bubble teams have decided not to play, including Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans, Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley and Brooklyn Nets big man DeAndre Jordan.

Many players have concerns about their personal health and the health of their families as they travel to Florida, which has seen a spike in positive COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks.

Yet those concerns aren't driving away any Celtics players, many of whom have been working out in Boston during the NBA's hiatus and appear on board with the league's restart plan.