The NBA board of governors voted Thursday to approve a 22-team format to restart the 2019-20 season in Orlando, Florida, the league announced.
Sources told ESPN that the vote was 29-1, with the Portland Trail Blazers voting against the proposal.
The National Basketball Players Association has been working closely with league officials on the plan, and the NBPA’s team player representatives have a conference call set for Friday to approve the proposal, sources told ESPN.
“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “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.”
Under the plan, 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams will play eight regular-season games, a possible play-in tournament for the eighth seed and playoffs at the Walt Disney World Resort, sources said.
The top 16 teams in the Eastern and Western conferences will be joined by teams currently within six games of eighth place in the two conferences — New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio, Sacramento, Phoenix and Washington, sources said.
The play-in tournament will include the No. 8 and No. 9 teams — if the ninth seed finishes the regular season within four games of the eighth. In that case, the No. 9 seed would need to beat No. 8 seed twice to earn the playoff berth, while the No. 8 would need one win from the two potential games.
The NBA said the season resuming is contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN, to use the Walt Disney Resort for all games, practices and housing.
Teams will begin training in Orlando starting July 9-11, sources said.
The league offered dates beyond the July 31-Oct. 12 season window, with the draft lottery set on Aug. 25, the draft on Oct. 15 and the 2020-21 season likely beginning Dec. 1. Sources told ESPN that free agency could begin Oct. 18 with training camps starting Nov. 10.
Some members of the board of governors whose teams were left out of the Orlando restart disagreed with the 22-team format but decided to cast “yes” votes.
Life in the NBA bubble will be governed by a set of safety protocols. While players and coaches will be allowed to golf or eat at outdoor restaurants, they will also need to maintain social distancing, sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
The NBA is planning to have uniform, daily testing for the coronavirus within the Disney campus environment, sources told ESPN.
If a player tests positive for the virus, the league’s intent would be to remove that player from the team to quarantine and treat individually — and continue to test other team members as they play on, sources said.
Employees at the Disney resort will have to maintain similar protocols. For example, no staff will be allowed into players’ rooms, and hallways will be carefully managed to avoid crowding, sources told Shelburne.
The NBA suspended its season on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
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