With a Board of Governors vote Thursday and the Players Association expected to follow suit on Friday, the NBA is on the verge of officially putting their return-to-play plan in place. With that, the 2019-20 season would resume at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on the Walt Disney World campus.
The 22-team plan calls for 13 from the Western Conference and nine from the Eastern Conference to enter into the Orlando bubble, with a goal of staging training camp by the middle of next month and games picking back up on July 31.
Each team is expected to play eight regular-season games before the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds in both conferences will potentially participate in a play-in tournament to set the playoff field.
According to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo! Sports, the NBA is reportedly planning to move on with the schedule as planned with a few slight adjustments to make up for teams not in Orlando:
The plan is for teams to continue their schedule as planned, with the next 8 games. If team is scheduled to play Hawks/Bulls/Pistons, it moves onto the next game on schedule, league sources tell Yahoo Sports
Although the Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams in position to easily clinch their spot in the playoffs, it remains to be seen who they will meet in the first round of the playoffs.
Before that, they will need to win three games in order to maintain the top spot in the Western Conference. Based on reports, the Lakers’ schedule would entail facing the Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz (back-to-back), Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings.
The Lakers initially had the Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers as part of their upcoming eight-game schedule. Although the Wizards and Kings have been pegged as their replacements, the gap in between games could result in the NBA having to figure out alternative options.
Fortunately, the format does raise a level of intrigue since it sets up a potential championship showdown between crosstown rivals in Los Angeles. The Clippers are slated to play the Brooklyn Nets, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Nets, Pacers and Kings.
Lakers legend and current Clippers consultant Jerry West was not shy about expressing his excitement at the prospect of the championship being played between both L.A. teams. Though, with the NBA not opting for seeding teams Nos. 1 through 16, West will have to settle for a potential matchup between the Lakers and Clippers in the Conference Finals.
It is clear that the NBA is still in the midst of working out the logistics of the newfound format. Regardless, there is no question that the Lakers appear to be primed for their 17th title run coming out of the hiatus.