Amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the NBA has had to get creative in terms of when and how they will bring basketball back. The league appears close to figuring out exactly what a return to play format will look like, and how players and staff will be kept safe.
Disney World will likely be a central location where all of the remaining games will take place instead of continuing in home arenas. In addition, the NBA has seemingly found enough testing to be able to consistently check players’ health, while also allowing family members to enter the Disney World bubble.
The final hurdle is the format, as teams were split over what the best return would look like. Some wanted all 30 teams to return to finish out a condensed regular season, while others preferred to go straight into the playoffs with something as unprecedented as a group stage.
However, now it seems that the most supported plan is one that involves 22 teams returning to the court in Orlando to finish out the regular season followed by a play-in tournament, according to ESPN:
The NBA is planning a Thursday vote of the league’s board of governors — with owners expected to approve commissioner Adam Silver’s recommendation on a format to restart the season in Orlando, Florida, sources tell ESPN.
The NBA has been examining several plans for a return to play, but numerous members of the board of governors tell ESPN that there’s growing support for a plan to bring 22 teams to Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in July.
This plan would involve bringing in six teams that are not currently in the playoffs:
The 22-team plan would include teams that are currently within six games of the final playoff spots in each conference, sources said.
In this format, there would be some regular-season games played, preferably to get all 22 teams to at least 70-72 games. At that point, a play-in tournament would commence for the eighth and final spot in each conference, and then the playoffs would start as normal.
The six teams not currently in the playoffs that would join the bubble are the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards. Each is currently within six games of a playoff spot.
While there are many facets of this plan that are still unclear, this seems to be the most detail that the NBA has given with regard to a return since the hiatus began. This should give some hope that a real return is possible, and Thursday’s vote should be proof of that.