Eighty-five days since the season was halted because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the NBA has finally set a date for its return. On Thursday, the NBA’s board of governors voted 29-1 in favor of approving a proposal for the season to resume on July 31 at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
The proposal is yet to be signed off by the NBA Players Association, but it is expected to be formally approved by the players’ union when it meets on Friday.
“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on Thursday.
“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.”
Here’s everything you need to know about how the restart.
When will the NBA return?
The season will resume on July 31. Teams were first allowed back in training facilities last month and will begin training camps on June 30, before flying to Orlando on July 7. A period of quarantine will be on the cards as Florida law requires people flying in from certain states to isolate for 14 days.
Which teams will be in Orlando?
The top eight teams currently holding a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference—Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic—will resume the season, along with the top eight teams currently holding a playoff spot in the Western Conference—Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies.
They will be joined in Orlando by another six teams, one from the Eastern Conference—Washington Wizards—and five from the Western Conference—Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns.
The league opted to invite the additional six teams as they are still in with a shot to make the playoffs.
How will the restart work?
Each of the 22 teams will play eight so-called seeding games, as selected from its remaining regular-season schedule over a 16-day period. This will involve five to six games played each day.
Each team is expected to play at least one back-to-back game.
The seven teams in each conference with the best combined records between regular-season games and seeding games will qualify for the playoffs.
Things get slightly more complicated when it comes to determining the eighth team that will make the playoffs in each conference. If the team with the eighth-best combined record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined record in the same conference, the former will qualify for the postseason.
Should the gap be smaller than four games, the teams with the eight- and ninth-best record in each conference will face off in a play-in tournament.
For example, should the Orlando Magic finish less than four games off the Washington Wizards in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, the two teams will play each other. To earn a spot in the playoffs, the Magic would have to beat the Wizards once, while Washington would have to defeat Orlando in two consecutive games to earn a postseason berth.
Once the eight teams in each conference have been determined, the playoffs will follow the traditional best-of-seven series throughout the three conference rounds and in the NBA Finals. Game 7 of the NBA Finals will be played no later than Monday, October 12.
Will players be tested?
The Athletic reported on Thursday that the NBA plans to test players and team members who will be in the bubble in Orlando on a daily basis. Widespread testing has been highlighted as a non-negotiable requirement for the NBA to return, but it remains to be seen which kind of testing the league will settle on.
Should a player, coach or staff member test positive for COVID-19, the league does not plan to stop the season. Commissioner Adam Silver said the individual in question will have to self-isolate, although he acknowledged an outbreak within a team could prove to be a significant logistical challenge to overcome.
Where will games be played?
According to ESPN, the league will stage games at three different venues at the Wide World of Sports Complex—The Arena, HP Field House and Visa Athletic Center. The playoffs will be played across two venues, with only one site expected to host the NBA Finals.