SALT LAKE CITY — Sports fans rejoice! The NBA is back. Or at least have taken the first major step towards returning.
On Thursday, the league’s board of governors approved the league’s plan to restart the season, the NBA announced.
According to the plan, the league is set to resume its season July 31 with 22 teams converging at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex on the Disney campus near Orlando. Six postseason hopefuls will join the 16 current playoff teams in Florida as the season restarts.
It is the first formal step to restart the season. The next will be the players' approval. The National Basketball Players Association will vote on the plan Friday, according to ESPN.
“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “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.”
Each of the 22 teams playing eight regular-season games or "seeding games" before the postseason begins. All games will be held at the Disney complex.
According to The Athletic, training camps will begin on June 30 with teams traveling to Orlando on July 7.
If the season does resume July 31, then the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery would be rescheduled for Aug. 25, the NBA Draft would be held on Oct. 15 and the 2020-21 NBA regular season would likely begin on Dec. 1, 2020, the NBA said.
With only eight seeding games to be played, the league is bringing the teams who still have a mathematical chance to make the postseason. That means the 16 teams already in playoff position will be joined by six others — five in the West and one in the East.
West teams (listed in order of current standings): Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles 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 the Phoenix Suns
East teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards
Playoff format and seeding
Teams will enter Disney with their current records and play eight seeding games to determine playoff order. Each returning team will play eight games, as selected from its remaining regular-season matchups.
At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the best-combined records qualify for the playoffs.
The playoff structure will be traditional Eastern and Western Conference brackets, and all playoff series will remain seven games.
What does that mean for the Jazz? Utah has a 9.5-game lead over No. 8 seed Memphis, so the Jazz are safely in the postseason. Now, where they will end up seeded is still very much up in the air.
With a strong close to the season, the Jazz can climb as high as the No. 2 seed (they are currently three games back of the Clippers), but could also fall to No. 7 (they hold just a 2.5-game lead over the Mavericks). In the West, four games separate the No. 3 and No. 7 seeds.
At the top of the conferences, the Lakers have a 5.5-game lead on the Clippers, and the Bucks have a 6.5 game lead on the Raptors, meaning those teams have just about locked up the No. 1 seeds.
As for the bottom of the pack, the Grizzlies hold a 3.5-game lead over three playoff hopefuls — the Blazers, Pelicans and Kings. But even if the Grizzlies hold them off, not to mention the Spurs and Suns, that might not be enough to make the tournament.
What’s the deal with the eighth seeds?
The teams chasing the final playoff spot in Orlando won’t necessarily have to catch the No. 8 seed all the way. If the ninth seed is less than four games back of eighth seed, it’ll force a play-in series. In that series, the ninth seed will have to beat the No. 8 seed two times in a row in order to make the playoffs. The eighth seed will just need to win one game to earn a postseason spot.