The NBA Board of Governors voted to restart the regular season for the 22 teams in contention for the playoffs in a near-unanimous vote on Thursday afternoon, according to reports.
The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilisation of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference postseason fields, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday.
Sources: The NBA informed the Board of Governors of scheduled dates:— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 4, 2020
- Training camp: June 30, July 7 travel to Orlando
- 2019-20 season: July 31
- Free agency: Oct. 18
- 2020-21 targets: Nov. 10 training camp, Dec. 1 opening night (can remain fluid)
In a 29-1 vote, the board voted for play to recommence on July 31, with the last possible date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals being October 12, ESPN reported. The NBA Draft will be held on October 15, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Free agency will begin on October 18, according to multiple reports.
As for the 2020-21 season, the league said the tentative plan is to start on December 1, after beginning training camps on November 10, though dates are flexible.
NBA has set an August 25 Draft Lottery and October 15 Draft, sources say.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 4, 2020
It is the most significant step yet in the process of trying to resume a season that was suspended nearly three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The Board's approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season," commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "While the coronavirus 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 recognise 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."
There are numerous other details for the league to continue working through - including finalising specifics of what the testing plan will be once teams arrive next month at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex, and calculating the financial ramifications of playing a shortened regular season.
Another person, speaking to AP on condition of anonymity because the details of the ongoing talks have not been publicly released, said the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and the NBA are continuing to work on a "lengthy" medical protocols document.
The details of that document will be shared with teams once those discussions are completed, said the person, who added that teams should receive them in plenty of time for them to prepare for their arrivals at the Disney-ESPN complex.
Watch Sky Sports Heatcheck - June 2 edition
Join Ovie, Mo and Jaydee for the latest episode of Sky Sports Heatcheck
If all 22 teams that are going to Disney play their allotted eight games before the postseason begins, the NBA would play 1,059 games in this regular season. That means 171 regular-season games would be cancelled, which could cost players around $600m in salary.
Those 22 clubs would play somewhere between 71 and 75 regular season games if the Disney portion of the schedule is completed, 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.
But one of the biggest hurdles is now cleared, and if things go according to plan, an NBA champion for a season unlike any other will be crowned in October. The season could go into that month if the league goes ahead with its plan for the same playoff rules as usual, that being every round utilising a best-of-seven format.
Teams are likely to be allowed to open training camps in late June before arriving at the Disney complex around July 7. Once there, camps will continue and teams will likely have the chance to have some scrimmages or "preseason" games against other clubs before the regular season resumes.
Thursday's move by the Board of Governors was largely a formality. The NBA considered countless restart options after suspending the season on March 11, whittled that list down to four possibilities last week and from there, the 22-team plan quickly began gaining momentum.
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 postseason berth.
The Milwaukee Bucks, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics and reigning NBA champions the Toronto Raptors had already clinched playoff berths. Now with only eight games remaining for each team, it means that eight other clubs - Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets - have postseason spots secured, and the Dallas Mavericks virtually have one sealed as well.
That leaves nine teams vying for three remaining playoff berths. In the East, the Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards are in the race for two spots. In the West, the Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns will jostle for one spot.
Get NBA news on your phone
Want the latest NBA news, features and highlights on your phone? Find out more
If the gap between eighth place and ninth place in either conference is four games or less when the shortened regular season ends, those teams will go head-to-head for the No 8 seed. The team in ninth place would have to go 2-0 in a two-game series to win the berth; otherwise, the No 8 seed would advance to the postseason.
Thursday's decision also means that the seasons for the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets are over. The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the third-longest current drought in the league behind Sacramento and Phoenix.
Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said in a statement: "To be included in the plan to restart the 2019-20 season would have been a positive for our players and their development, but we understand the need to compromise and we support the decision made today by the NBA Board of Governors.
"We are disappointed that our season is over and there won't be opportunities to see our team or players in game action, but we will be creative in discovering new opportunities to support their growth as we prepare for the next season."
And with the Hawks not moving on, it also means Vince Carter has almost certainly played the final game of his 22-year NBA career - the longest in league history.
Carter, the first player in NBA history to appear in four different decades, has steadfastly insisted that he is retiring after this season. He appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league's all-time list.