The NBA Is Back...On July 31
It’s been a long two-plus months since the NBA was put on pause thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic back on March 12. After a lot of radio silence, things started to ramp up in late April with the announcement that team facilities would open on May 1. That was eventually pushed back a week to May 8 with teams having the ability to have their players take part in individual workouts. Over the last couple of weeks, there have been plenty of internal discussions about getting back on the floor and completing the season. On Wednesday, we got some concrete news that should have basketball fans rejoicing.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA is expected to approve the league’s return to play concept in a meeting of the Board of Governors Thursday afternoon. Twenty-two of the league’s 30 teams are going to head to Orlando to continue the season. According to the proposal, 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams will comprise the field heading to the Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World. The breakdown of the teams, by conference, is as follows:
Eastern Conference: Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards
Western Conference: 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, Phoenix Suns
In a normal season, the Wizards, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs and Suns wouldn’t be in the postseason but with the season interrupted, the decision was made to expand the field to teams within six games of the final playoff spot in each conference. Teams are slated to play eight regular season games to prepare for the postseason and the games will help determine the seeding for the playoffs. Seeing that teams have played between 63 and 67 games at the pause point, that means everyone will play at least 71 games. That should help satisfy local and regional TV contracts to avoid having a shortfall on that front.
Under the rules of the proposal, the league could potentially stage a play-in tournament for the eighth and final playoff spot in each conference. If the ninth-place team is within four games of the eighth seed when the regular season games are concluded, that would trigger the play-in scenario. Seeing that the ninth through 12th-place teams in the West went into the pause within four games of eighth-seeded Memphis, the potential for that happening seems to be pretty good. On the flip side, Washington was 5.5 games behind Orlando at the pause so the Wizards would have to make up two games down the stretch to set up the play-in feature in the East.
According to the proposal, the league would restart on July 31 with the NBA Finals, should they reach a Game 7, would conclude no later than October 12. The expectation is that free agency and the NBA Draft would take place after the conclusion of the season, with the 2020-21 season starting either in December or January. On paper, the concept seems to be the best one for all the teams involved as those who were in contention for a playoff spot get a chance to try and earn their spot. Those who were battling for seeding and potential home court advantage, such that it would be in this scenario, have their opportunity.
It’s going to be an interesting return to the hardwood as it will be four and a half months between when the season was paused and when things get back to action. Still, the news that the NBA is back is enough to help sports fans with something concrete to look forward to at this point. It may be eight weeks or so off but that solid information is something that can’t be overlooked. It’s a good day indeed.