After 12 weeks of no live basketball with the NBA world put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league has been navigating through these uncharted waters, while fans have been eagerly awaiting the NBA's decision on the 2019-20 season.
On Thursday, the NBA Board of Governors approved a plan allowing the season to resume at Walt Disney World in Orlando under a 22-team format, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
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.
“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a release. “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.”
There's still more hurdles before an official return to play, though.
The NBA and the NBPA are working with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials to establish a rigorous program to prevent and mitigate the risk related to COVID-19, including a regular testing protocol and stringent safety practices. The season restart is also contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, as a single site for a campus for all games, practices and housing for the remainder of the season.
Here's what we know about the NBA's return to play so far:
In addition to regular testing, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Wednesday that there will be various other medical protocols in place, including no guests permitted until the postseason, players not being allowed to shower in the arena and bench players sitting in spread-out rows. Still, the league and those who travel to Orlando would clearly be taking on health and safety risks by deciding to continue the season.
The games will be played without fans. They will be televised with specific broadcast information yet to be announced.
Each team would play eight additional regular-season games, and the six teams involved that are not currently in a playoff position would be the Pelicans, Trail Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs and Wizards. If the ninth seed is within four games of the eight seed at the end of the regular season, there would be a play-in tournament to determine the final playoff spot.
If teams are set to play one of the eight teams not included in the 22-team plan, they would move on to their next scheduled game.
The Trail Blazers currently in 9th place in the Western Conference standings, 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies. Sacramento and New Orleans are also 3.5 games behind Memphis, but Portland holds the tiebreaker.
Here's key dates to keep in mind:
- Training camp: June 30
- Travel to Orlando: July 7
- Proposed start date: July 31st.
- The last possible date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals would be Oct. 12, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
- The league's draft lottery will take place on Aug. 25 and the 2020 NBA draft will be held on Oct. 15, per ESPN.
- Free agency begins: Oct. 18
- Training camp for 2020-21 season begins: Nov. 10
- Opening night for 2020-21 season: Dec. 1 (can remain fluid)
The season has been suspended since March 11, when Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. The sports world has been a small sector of the population affected by a global pandemic. In the United States, there have been over 1.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 100,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus, according to NBC News.