NBA Players Approve 22-Team Return-to-Play Format to Finish Season

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJune 5, 2020

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a news conference at Vivint Smart Home Arena, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Salt Lake City. The NBA announced that Salt Lake City has been selected to host the NBA All-Star Game in 2023. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

The NBPA has approved the NBA's plan for a 22-team format to finish the 2019-20 season, which has been suspended since Wednesday, March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the top eight teams in the Eastern and Western Conference standings plus the six teams within six games of a playoff spot will take part in the season's finish, which will occur at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Teams will conclude the regular season with eight games apiece and then a play-in tournament will occur if necessary for the eighth and final playoff spot in each conference.

The NBA's typical four-round, 16-team postseason will ensue with best-of-seven series lasting until October, with Game 7 taking place on the 12th if necessary.

The restart is scheduled to begin Friday, July 31.

The NBPA's approval was the final hurdle toward approving a restart. The NBA's Board of Governors approved the 22-team plan by a 29-1 vote Thursday, per Wojnarowski.

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Teams are scheduled to travel to Florida on July 7, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps, who outlined the regular-season format in more detail, most notably the logistics involved in playing out the regular season at one locale:

"The regular season will extend 16 days, with five to six games per day. The NBA has branded these 'seeding games,' and it is likely there will be weekday afternoon playoff games during the first round.

"Sources say the league will use three different facilities at first to stage games: The Arena, HP Field House and Visa Athletic Center, all at the Wide World of Sports Complex. As things progress, it will be reduced to two sites and then one. There will be four hours between games on each individual court to accommodate overtimes, cleanings and warm-ups."

Wojnarowski reported that the play-in tournament would be held if necessary. If the eighth seed in each conference finishes more than four games ahead of the ninth seed when the regular season ends, then a play-in will not take place.

However, if the No. 9 seed finishes within four games, then the eighth and ninth seeds in each conference would enter a play-in competition whereas the No. 9 seed would have to beat the No. 8 seed two straight times to make the playoff field. One win for the No. 8 seed in that scenario would seal a berth.

As far as safety measures, daily COVID-19 testing will be the norm in Florida, per Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic. They will most likely consist of mouth swabs and light nasal swabs as opposed to a "full invasive nasal swab," per Charania.

A positive test would result in a seven-day minimum quarantine for a player.

In addition, NBA players will be in a quasi-bubble in Walt Disney World, with the NBPA mandating that players remain on the campus for safety purposes, per Charania.

"There won't be tracking devices on players. But goal is to keep everyone in safe environment," Charania wrote.

Wojnarowski provided more detail on that front, nothing that players won't be going to theme parks with their families among the general public.

Family members will be allowed to join players in Florida, although there is a limit to how many and when, per Wojnarowski.

No more than 1,600 people will be in the bubble at any time. Players can welcome family members after the first round of the playoff, but Wojnarowski said there will "likely" be a limit of three family members at once.

As for the 2020-21 campaign, the NBA initially had plans for a Nov. 10 training camp start and Dec. 1 season-opening date, per Wojnarowski. That would be less than a month of downtime for the NBA Finals teams between a hypothetical Game 7 and the start of organized team activities for the next campaign.

The NBPA does not appear on board, however, with Charania reporting that the organization told its players that start date appears "unlikely" to come to fruition.

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