NBA approves 22 team format to finish season

After several months on hiatus, the NBA made significant headway in returning to play. On Thursday’s board of governors call with league commissioner Adam Silver, the owners approved a plan to conclude out the remainder of the 2019-20 season at Disney World in Orlando, where eventually, a champion will be crowned, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The vote required three-fourths support to pass, and it received a 29-1 vote from owners on the call, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The owners now need formal approval from the National Basketball Players Association before the league can move forward. The NBPA is expected to hold a virtual call on Friday to approve the plan that the owners just voted on, according to the New York Times’ Marc Stein.

The league is targeting a start date of July 31, where 22 of the 30 NBA teams are expected to participate in Orlando. That will include the 16 current playoff teams as well as the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards.

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Teams will play an abbreviated version of the regular season that will consist of eight games, as well as a play-in tournament for the eighth seed in both conferences.

The tournament will only happen if the No. 9 seed finishes within four games of the No. 8 seed, in which case the No. 9 seed will have to beat the No. 8 seed twice to earn the final playoff spot in their conference. The playoffs will be a best-of-seven series in each round, with the NBA Finals finishing no later than October 12.

While NBA seasons had previously been shortened by labor disputes, never has the league halted operations so abruptly only to pick them back up months down the line. That creates a number of questions leading into the resumed season, including how teams will prepare after so much idle time.

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after two members of the Utah Jazz, later revealed to be Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, a number of players and league figures have tested positive, including Kevin Durant, Marcus Smart and New York Knicks owner James Dolan. Those who did test positive have since recovered, and no new positive tests have been made public since. 

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