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NBA to propose 22-team format for return in way that would include the Wizards

NBA to propose 22-team format for return in way that would include the Wizards

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will offer a return-to-play proposal to the league's Board of Governors on Thursday that includes 22 teams convening in Orlando, FL at Disney World, and the draft lottery and combine taking place in August.

The news, which was first reported by The Athletic, would mean the Washington Wizards play more games this year, as they have the 22nd-best record in the league. And the specific playoff rules would allow for them to potentially qualify if they made up some ground in the standings.

The Wizards currently sit 5 1/2 games back out of the eighth spot, but the NBA's proposal would have a play-in tournament. If the Wizards were fewer than four games out of eighth by the end of the regular season, they would play the No. 8 team for a playoff berth. Right now, the eighth-ranked team in the East is the Orlando Magic, but they are only a half-game behind the Brooklyn Nets.

The play-in format would be a short series. According to ESPN, the ninth-seed would have to beat the eighth-seed twice to get in.

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For the Wizards, there is a lot to like about this scenario. If it were agreed upon, they would be able to play more games and have a chance at the playoffs without being handed a spot.

According to ESPN, each team would play eight regular-season games before the playoffs. Even if the Wizards didn't make it, they would have eight games to develop their young players with something to fight for in terms of playoff stakes.

Eight games would also be plenty of time for them to potentially improve their draft stock. They currently have the ninth-best odds, but in this scenario would have room to move up or down.

The Wizards are 24-40 at the moment. Eight more games would give them 72 on the year, just 10 short of a full 82-game season. That would be longer and much closer to a full season than the lockout years of 1998-99 (50 games) and 2011-12 (66 games).

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Many Wizards players plan to wear social justice messages on back of jerseys

Many Wizards players plan to wear social justice messages on back of jerseys

The NBA's initiative allowing players to wear social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys, instead of their last names, in Orlando is being fully embraced by members of the Washington Wizards.

Ian Mahinmi and Moe Wagner have said they will wear 'vote.' Troy Brown Jr. and Jerome Robinson will wear 'Black Lives Matter.' Shabazz Napier says he has chosen 'equality' as his message.

RELATED: WAGNER TO WEAR 'VOTE' ON JERSEY

Every Wizards player who has been asked during media availability from Disney World so far has committed to participating. Their reasons are specific to the person, but they are in unity when it comes to the overall message.

"I play 82 games with my name on the back of my jersey," Brown said. "To have an opportunity to put something that I truly believe in and that needs to be addressed on the back of my jersey, I took that opportunity and am definitely going to make the most of it."

"I think for me, I will put 'Black Lives Matter' on the back of my jersey just because that is the biggest symbol of representation of what we have going on right now," Robinson said. "Through the whole quarantine, with the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the amount of people that were murdered for no reason at all, or for terrible reasoning; I think it's the biggest symbol on one of the biggest platforms."

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In asking the players, it's clear they thought deeply about which message to choose. The NBA gave them options that also include 'justice' and 'I can't breathe.' 

For Napier, there were many layers to his decision to wear 'equality.'

"I think in this world, in this moment right now, we're fighting amongst each other, whether it's black or white or women or men. I think for us to understand that everybody should be held at an equal standard, no matter the race and no matter the gender. That speaks loudly to me. I was raised by my mother only, so I understand the trials and tribulations that women go through on a daily basis to a certain extent," he said.

"I think that it's very important that as much as the [racial issues] we are dealing with at the moment, it's the same for gays and their equal rights. I think equality means a lot. I think if we get that down, sooner or later things will come to fruition and we will live in a positive world."

There has been some debate about whether the NBA returning will be a negative distraction to the social justice matters percolating around the country. But the Wizards plan to make the most of their platform in Orlando, hoping to raise more awareness for the causes they believe in.

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Wizards players react to teammates contracting coronavirus

Wizards players react to teammates contracting coronavirus

Though the percentages may be lower for young, well-conditioned athletes, coronavirus remains a real threat to NBA players and the Washington Wizards were served a reminder of that this week with the reported positive tests for Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II.

Forward Troy Brown Jr., who is close with Bryant, said he has talked to his friend and teammate since he came down with Covid-19. He believes Bryant will be able to join the team in Orlando before too long.

"I talked to him a little bit. It's just more so day by day," Brown said. "I don't think it was anything other than just him doing normal stuff [when he contracted it]."

Guard Jerome Robinson is with the Wizards at Disney World, taking their team flight down on July 7. But he says the decision to play was not a simple one.

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Robinson felt uneasy about the risk of being around people and playing basketball during the worldwide pandemic.

"There was some thought [of not going]. For the most part, for me my concerns were just the safety of it all. It's a deadly virus and we don't have a vaccine," he explained.

"It was kind of scary being around my family and things like that. I don't want to get put in a circumstance where we all get it our I get it or things of that nature, [especially] any elder. The biggest thing is how can we be safe during this whole thing."

Robinson is 23 years old and an NBA player in tip-top shape. But he has read enough of the news to realize, though the odds are lower, the possibility remains for someone of his age and health to be affected by the virus.

"Even us, being young people, you don't want to be that one because it can happen. It's a deadly virus and it's something that we have to take seriously," he said.

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