The NBA took a major step toward getting back on the court Thursday, with the league's Board of Governors approving a 22-team format for restarting the league season next month at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida.
The vote was 29-1, with Portland casting the dissenting vote, said a person with knowledge of the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league did not publicly release voting details. The National Basketball Players Association has scheduled a meeting for today to vote on the plan.
Teams would arrive at Disney around July 7 and play an eight-game slate of games starting July 31 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. All teams will stay, practice and play at Disney, and the NBA Finals – which would have started Thursday if not for the coronavirus pandemic that caused the NBA to suspend its season on March 11 – will likely stretch into October.
“The Board's approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “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.”
The eight-game slate – it's unclear if they will be classified as regular season games – will help determine playoff seeding. From there, the league could have a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference postseason fields.
There are numerous details to work through, including finalizing specifics of what the testing plan at Disney will entail and calculating the financial ramifications of playing fewer games.
While working to finish this season, the league also has made decisions on next season – with the draft lottery rescheduled for Aug. 25, the draft on Oct. 15 and opening night for the 2020-21 season is tentatively set for Dec. 1. The G League also announced Thursday that it canceled the remainder of this season.
The 22 Disney-bound clubs would play somewhere between 71 and 75 games before the playoffs begin, down from the customary 82-game slate. The teams who didn't qualify for the restart will see their seasons end after having played somewhere between 64 and 67 games.
Roughly 15% of what would have been the full NBA regular season won't be played, which means players stand to lose around $600 million in salary. How that process will work is among the issues that the league and union are still working to solve.
The 22-team plan includes all teams that were holding playoff spots when the season was stopped, plus all other clubs within six games of a berth.
Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston and reigning NBA champion Toronto had already clinched playoff berths. Now with only eight games remaining for each team, it means that eight other clubs – Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston – have postseason spots secured, and Dallas virtually has one as well.
That leaves nine teams vying for three remaining playoff berths. In the East, Brooklyn, Orlando and Washington are in the race for two spots. In the West, Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix will jostle for one spot.
For Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, Golden State, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago and Charlotte, the season is over.