NBA approves preliminary return-to-play plan

Basketball. © Can Stock Photo / zimmytws

Basketball may be the next major sport to head back to action following a pandemic-related pause.

The National Basketball Association’s (NBA) board of governors has agreed to a preliminary back-to-court plan for resuming the season, which was put on hold in mid-March due to the pandemic.

The plan, which is expected to go through a series of revisions before any tipoff can take place, consists of 22 teams returning to the court at one concentrated venue, Walt Disney World in Florida.

“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,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

The 22 teams, which include the world-champion Toronto Raptors, consist of the eight teams currently holding playoff positions in each conference. The remaining six clubs include teams that are within six games of a playoff berth at the time the season was paused. Under this arrangement, the season would be over for the Detroit Pistons.

The league is working with the National Basketball Players Association on drawing up a plan to resume the season, with a July 31 target date. The plan is subject to the blessing of state, provincial, and local health officials, and an agreement with the Walt Disney Company to use the Florida resort for all remaining games and practices, as well as housing for players, coaches, and staff.

According to the NBA plan, as it currently stands, the season restart would begin with eight “seeding games” for each returning team, with possible play-ins to break any ties. Once the 16-team playoff field is set, the NBA Playoffs would proceed in a traditional conference-based format with four rounds and best-of-seven series in each round. The NBA Finals would end no later than October 12.

Should the dates hold up, the NBA Draft Lottery would be rescheduled for August 25 with the draft itself on October 15. The 2020-2021 NBA season would tentatively start on December 1.

Silver also drew attention to the current climate of violence and racial tension in the United States generated by the alleged murder of a black Minnesota man at the hands of police officers.

“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,” said Silver.

The NHL has already adopted a preliminary plan to resume action. No reboot date has been set yet, but the format will involve scrapping the rest of the regular season and going to a 24-team playoff format, which will include the Toronto Maple Leafs.