Let’s play ball. The NBA is officially back with the Board of Governors approving the league’s restart in Orlando next month. As expected, 22 teams—13 from the Western Conference and nine from the East—will take the court when play resumes on July 31. According to league insider, Shams Charania, only one team—the Portland Trail Blazers—voted against the 22-team proposal.
Training camps for the 22 teams headed to Orlando (this excludes the Bulls, Cavaliers, Hawks, Hornets, Knicks, Pistons, Timberwolves and Warriors, whose seasons are over) will open on June 30, giving players roughly a month to prepare for the remaining eight games of the 2019-20 regular season. Playoffs will run through mid-October (Game 7, if necessary, would be held on October 12) with the league’s free agency period to begin on October 18. Obviously, the coronavirus outbreak and the NBA’s resulting hiatus will lead to an abbreviated offseason with training camp for the upcoming 2020-21 campaign tentatively scheduled for November 10 with opening night (December 1) occurring roughly three weeks later.
There are still issues to be ironed out—it’s unclear what advantages higher seeds will be afforded (if any) and how the league will go about testing players for COVID-19. Those details figure to be sorted out in the coming days with the Players Association holding a conference call Friday to officially approve the league’s return. The suspiciously arbitrary 22-team format may have been motivated by marketing and television interests (this assures we’ll see Zion Williamson at least eight more times), though obviously it wasn’t a major point of contention among league executives with Portland standing as the lone exception.
It will be an agonizing wait, but in 57 days, live basketball will finally be back on our television screens.