The NBA is coming back. After the league’s owners approved a plan to finish out the remainder of the 2019-20 season at Disney World in Orlando during Thursday’s Board of Governors call, the NBPA followed suit and approved the plan on Friday, it announced in a statement. The players’ rep vote was unanimous, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The owners received a 29-1 vote from owners on the call, with the Portland Trail Blazers reportedly being the only holdout.
In a statement addressing the plan to resume the season, Silver said:
“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season. 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. We also recognize that as we prepare to resume play, our society is reeling from recent tragedies of racial violence and injustice, and we will continue to work closely with our teams and players to use our collective resources and influence to address these issues in very real and concrete ways.”
The NBA will conduct coronavirus testing on a nightly basis in Orlando, but will do so with lighter mouth or nasal swabs as opposed to the more intrusive ones that have made headlines during the pandemic, according to Charania. A positive test will result in a quarantine of at least seven days.
Another major concern on the part of players was whether or not families would be able to join them in Orlando. The current bubble plan will allow for 1,600 people at a time, so as teams leave, families will be able to replace them. That will happen after the first round of the postseason. Neither players nor families will be allowed to leave the bubble. Teams are expected to be limited to a 35-person traveling party.
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. 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 concluding no later than Oct. 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 current schedule for the rest of the NBA season is as follows, per Charania:
June 15: Players currently outside the United States return to home market
June 21: All players return to home market
June 22: Testing for COVID-19 begins
June 30: Training camp begins
July 7: All teams travel to Orlando
July 31: Season resumes
Teams are expected to play 2-3 exhibition games in Orlando, but dates for those have not yet been set. They are also expected to be given three-hour practice windows, as the convention center has two courts and weight rooms. Crowd noise through NBA2K could be provided, but both the players and the league are considering alternatives.
Players are expected to begin receiving full paychecks again over the summer. They took a 25 percent pay reduction in May to help offset the revenue lost from putting the season on hiatus. There will reportedly not be blood testing for banned substances in Orlando.
As far as next season goes, Roberts indicated to players that a start date of Dec. 1, as the league reportedly hoped for, was unlikely and subject to negotiation. Such a plan would have forced the teams that played in the NBA Finals back to training camp less than a month after the planned date for Game 7.
While most teams have already reopened their practice facilities to allow players to do individual workouts, the San Antonio Spurs remain the only team in the league who have not. As one of the 22 teams competing in Orlando, though, that will surely happen soon, so players can prepare for the remainder of the season.