Celtics

NBA return format: Reported key dates for season restart, free agency, more

NBA return format: Reported key dates for season restart, free agency, more

Buckle up, NBA fans. After months of inactivity, you're about to get a heavy dose of basketball.

The NBA's Board of Governors approved a plan Thursday to resume the 2019-20 season under a 22-team format.

The format reportedly has each team playing eight regular-season games at Walt Disney World in Orlando to determine seeding for a 16-team playoff, which the Boston Celtics already have clinched a spot in.

So, when does the season resume, when will the NBA playoffs start and how soon will offseason events like the NBA Draft and free agency begin?

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ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic's Shams Charania reported several key dates Thursday on Twitter. Here's the reported rundown:

June 15: Players outside of the U.S. return to their local market.

June 21: All players report to their respective teams.

June 22: Coronavirus testing begins for players and staff.

June 30: Training camp begins for the 22 teams involved in the format.

July 7: The 22 teams travel to Orlando.

July 31: The 2019-20 season resumes with teams beginning their eight-game schedule to determine playoff seeding.

Aug. 25: The NBA Draft Lottery will be held.

Oct. 12: Proposed date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals (still TBD, per Wojnarowski).

Oct. 15: The 2020 NBA Draft will be held.

Oct. 18: Free agency for the 2020-21 season begins.

The NBA also is targeting a Nov. 10 start date to training camp for the 2020-21 season and a Dec. 1 start date to begin the regular season, per Charania, who noted those dates remain fluid.

That's a lot of action over the next several months, with just three days between the draft and free agency and under two months between seasons.

The NBA has been on hiatus since March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, so the league is doing everything it can to get back on track by compressing the schedule.

The Celtics were allowed to return to their team facility in Boston this week and reportedly have just over a month to shake off the rust before heading down to Orlando.

Brad Stevens: Celtics will "move very slowly" in Kemba Walker's return to play

Brad Stevens: Celtics will "move very slowly" in Kemba Walker's return to play

Kemba Walker was the latest Boston Celtic to undergo a bit of load management, shortly before the NBA season was suspended on March 12. 

Now that the league is prepared to get things going again later this month, the Celtics remain cautious in their approach to Walker’s return to action. 

“We’re going to move very slowly with Kemba Walker and let him strengthen (the left knee)," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens following the team's first practice in Orlando, Fla. on Friday. "And make sure that he’s all good to go as we enter the seeding games and obviously, the playoffs.”

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Walker, who did some work with the team on Friday, has been among the league's most durable players for most of his NBA career.

But this season, the four-time All-Star has missed 14 games after having missed a total of just six over the four previous seasons combined. Of Boston’s last 10 games prior to the season being suspended on March 12, Walker was out because of left knee issues six times. 

He has talked about the knee being better and healthy, but Walker and the Celtics know all too well the important role that he plays in the team’s chances at making a deep playoff run. 

This is Walker’s first season with the Celtics after signing a four-year, $141 million deal. He began the season as the team’s most potent scorer, but third-year wing Jayson Tatum has emerged as more than just one of the league’s more talented young players. 

Enes Kanter Show: C's center gives first impressions of NBA bubble | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Tatum was named an All-Star for the first time this season, and since the All-Star break a legit case can be made that only a handful of players in the league have been more impressive. 

A healthy Walker gives the Celtics an impressive 1-2 scoring punch that’s complemented by the emergence of Jaylen Brown, who has played at a near All-Star level this season while Gordon Hayward has been about as strong a No. 4 option as you will find on any roster. 

While the time off the court will certainly present a different kind of challenge for the Celtics, the time without games or practices have been a huge benefit for Walker. 

And that benefit is something the Celtics are intent on not squandering, which is why the nice-and-slow approach makes a lot of sense as Walker works his way back into playing major minutes in Boston's quest to go deep into the postseason. 

“I really needed that break,” Walker said recently. “It definitely helped me get back to myself and start to feel comfortable on my knee.

He added, “It was a very unfortunate time but it was in my best interest for sure. I’m going to stay on top of things and take it day by day.”

Celtics' Jaylen Brown deactivates his Instagram, ready to maximize NBA bubble experience

Celtics' Jaylen Brown deactivates his Instagram, ready to maximize NBA bubble experience

Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said he deactivated his Instagram account this week in order to enhance his focus while he develops a new routine inside the NBA bubble.

"It was an interesting experience [entering the bubble],” said Brown. "I’m not going to do too much complaining, or do any complaining at all, to be honest. I come from humble beginnings just like everybody else. It’s not exactly what we’re accustomed to, but it’s fine. 

"For me, I’m just trying to find a routine to just pass the time. I’m not trying to be on social media. I deactivated my Instagram account, not because I feel like it is a distraction. But until I get a routine, I want to not pick up bad habits and things like that.”

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Brown said he wants to maximize what he’s able to do inside the bubble, particularly beyond the basketball court.

"I feel like we’re down here with a purpose,” said Brown. "I want to educate myself. Spend time doing research, spend time talking to my teammates or other people in the NBA trying to figure out how we can all come together and use our time to divert our attention to things outside of basketball. While we’re down here, we got nothing but time. So I’m trying to make myself available to any players that are around and might have questions or anything they want to build off of, and also my teammates as well. So we can figure out ways to put our heads together and be a part of change.”

Enes Kanter Show: C's center gives first impressions of NBA bubble | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Celtics players have spent the past two days quarantined in their hotel rooms while waiting to be cleared to begin full-team practices. They got on the floor Friday afternoon inside a Disney convention center equipped with two full-sized courts and a weight room.

Brown compared Friday’s session to the first day of training camp and said the Celtics "had a lot of guys with a lot of great energy, a lot of the young guys had a lot of high energy, so I think we’re ready.”

Added Brown: "We’re looking forward to getting things started, getting things going. Like I said, we’re on a mission, all of us here. We understand we don’t want to do too much complaining about other stuff. We want to focus on what we can control and divert most of our energy to while we’re here. Being on this team has been great. I think we’re all excited as to what the future entails.”