N.B.A. Sets July 31 Return to Play Entirely in Florida

N.B.A. Sets July 31 Return to Play Entirely in Florida


N.B.A. owners on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the league’s plan to restart the season with 22 teams at Walt Disney World in Florida in July, according to a person familiar with the voting results.

The single-site proposal was ratified by a vote of 29 to 1, with the Portland Trail Blazers as the sole opposition, according to the person, who was not authorized to discuss the results publicly. According to league rules, 23 votes in favor from the 30 teams were required to pass the measure put forth by Adam Silver, the commissioner of the N.B.A.

The N.B.A. would be among the largest and most-watched North American sports leagues to return, following announcements by the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League to resume play in the summer in some fashion. The voting results were first reported by The Athletic.

The N.B.A.’s return-to-play plan, approved on what would have been the first day of the finals for this season, will next be reviewed by the National Basketball Players Association, which has scheduled a virtual meeting with its membership Friday afternoon, according to three people with knowledge of the timetable who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. It was not immediately clear whether the players would be asked to formally vote on the proposal, but the league is hopeful that the close working relationship Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul, the union president, maintains with Silver is indicative of the players’ eventual approval.

To earn one of the 22 invitations to Disney World, teams had to be within six games of a playoff berth as of March 11, when the N.B.A. abruptly suspended the season in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Joining the 16 teams that occupied playoff spots as of that date are five teams from the West (Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix) and Washington in the East.

The season is thus over for Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Golden State, Minnesota and the Knicks — teams that may wind up enduring a nine-month wait for their next competitive game with the N.B.A. considering starting the 2020-21 season on Dec. 25, rather than in October.

The N.B.A. settled upon 22 teams after ruling out including all 30, to reduce the number of people entering its planned safety bubble in Florida. The league spent much of May looking for a compromise, ranging from 20 to 24 teams, after deciding that a 16-team field that proceeded straight to the playoffs was unfair to a handful of teams that were within range of a playoff berth when play was suspended, and potentially damaging to the quality of play.

The league settled on 22 teams last week, for competitive and financial reasons. Having that many teams participate will enable the N.B.A. to stage 88 regular-season games without fans — eight for each team — and potentially up to four playoff play-in games before the postseason. Those games will help several teams satisfy local television contracts and thus lessen some of the revenue losses incurred leaguewide this season.

After the regular-season games, teams that finish ninth in the East and West will be granted an opportunity to face the No. 8 seed in a play-in round as long as they are no more than four games back — with two consecutive wins required for No. 9 to wrest the final playoff spot in each conference away. The league will proceed from there with its standard playoff format, featuring four best-of-seven playoff rounds with seeding from 1 to 8 in the East and West, which could take the season from a restart date of July 31 into mid-October.

No details were immediately revealed Thursday regarding the considerable social distancing protocols, testing programs and potential quarantine measures that the league is expected to implement to try to keep the coronavirus from infiltrating its so-called campus environment.

Teams are tentatively expected to report to the Orlando area in the July 7-9 range and will soon begin recalling their out-of-town players to tamp up training in their own practice facilities before heading to Disney World, which can stage several games daily in the three arenas available at the 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.



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