NBA Approves 22-Team Format to Restart the Basketball Season After Coronavirus Suspension
The approval from the NBA Board of Governors "is the first formal step among many required to resume the season"
The journey to an NBA return just got a little shorter.
The NBA Board of Governors approved a competitive format to restart the 2019-2020 season on Thursday, the league said in a press release. The season will tentatively restart on July 31, with 22 teams playing.
According to the release, "the Board’s approval is the first formal step among many required to resume the season."
The 22 teams returning include eight teams from each conference in current playoff positions, as well as six teams that are at most six games behind the eighth seed in their conferences.
The Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards will return from the Eastern Conference. From the Western Conference, the teams will be the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns.
To start, each team will play eight seeding games. The seven teams in each conference with the best-combined records — inclusive of both the seeding games and the regular-season games already played — will qualify for the playoffs.
Each conference's eighth seed will advance automatically if they hold more than a four-game lead over the ninth seed. However, if not, the eighth seed will participate in a play-in round against the ninth seed to take the final playoff spot.
The season will conclude with a traditional playoff format.
“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in the press 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."
The season restart is contingent on reaching an agreement with the Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort in Florida as a single site for all games, practices and housing.
The league first suspended their season in early March when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.