The NBA Appears Set to Return to Action on July 31
After almost three months without games, the NBA is slated to come back at the tail end of July. The NBA Board of Governors approved a plan that will see 22 teams move to Orlando to finish out an abbreviated regular season, and the players union is widely expected to approve the plan on Friday. There is palpable excitement with the NBA returning to the court, and it is the first of the three major American sports that were on hold to announce a definitive return.
What We Know
The NBA has laid out a timetable that will enable them to start the season on July 31. Teams will spend the next few weeks recalling their players, and there will be a week-long training camp for each team to somewhat prepare starting on June 30. All 22 teams involved in the remainder of the 2019-20 season will then fly to Orlando on July 7, and each team will quarantine for two weeks at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort.
The league decided to include 22 teams instead of going to a flat 16 teams to allow clubs that were on the outside looking in at the playoffs an opportunity to play their way into the field. Those additional six teams were all within six games of the No. 8 seed in each conference, but the composition of these teams is unbalanced. There will be nine Eastern Conference teams and 13 Western Conference teams heading to Orlando, yet the integrity of the conferences will remain intact as only eight teams from each conference will make the postseason.
Each team will play eight more regular season games to determine the seeding for the playoffs. All of these games will take place over the span of 16 days, and the seven best teams from each conference at the conclusion of the regular season will automatically qualify for the postseason.
The eighth-best team in each conference will automatically qualify for the postseason if they are more than four games ahead of the ninth-best team, but if the No. 9 seed can stay within that margin there will be a play-in of up to two games. The No. 8 seed will qualify or the playoffs if they beat the No. 9 seed once, while the No. 9 seed will have to beat the No. 8 seed twice to supplant them for that final playoff spot.
Although there was speculation that we would see best-of-five playoff series, especially in the first round, Adam Silver confirmed that the playoffs will proceed along their typical format. There will be best-of-seven series for each round of the postseason, but the NBA will be very proactive in condensing the time off between games and series as much as possible.
Other dates were set for events that were thrown off schedule due to the coronavirus epidemic too. The NBA draft lottery will take place on August 25, and the NBA Draft will be held on October 15. The start of free agency will be three days after the draft, creating a whirlwind of activity for front offices as Game 7 of the NBA Finals could take place as late as October 12.
What We Don’t Know
While the NBA has figured out the general framework of the season and has specific dates for important events, there are still some things up in the air. The most important thing to be determined is the regular season schedule for each team. Sources have said that the league plans to keep teams’ remaining schedules intact as much as possible, but adjustments will need to be made since the season will be shortened and eight teams have seen their seasons come to an end.
According to reports, players will be allowed to sit out if they don’t feel safe. However, the league and players union have yet to come to an agreement on whether a player that chooses this option will receive any of their salary. No player has gone on the record to say that they plan on sitting out, but it is something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
Since many of the league’s coaches are over 60 years old, certain coaches might not be on the bench for their teams’ games either. There has yet to be a protocol instituted to determine what to do with at-risk coaches, so that will need to be hashed out too.
Of course, the elephant in the room is what will happen if players test positive for the coronavirus. The NBA will not shut down if one player tests positive like they did when Rudy Gobert tested positive in March, but multiple players on the same team testing positive could trigger an immediate postponement of the season. That’s why the league is introducing so many measures to prevent this from happening.
ODDS TO WIN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP
Los Angeles Lakers +210
Los Angeles Clippers +275
Milwaukee Bucks +300
Boston Celtics +1200
Houston Rockets +2000
Toronto Raptors +2500
Denver Nuggets +2800
Philadelphia 76ers +3000
Dallas Mavericks +4000
Utah Jazz +4000