After nearly three months with no game action, NBA teams finally have an idea of when they will get back on the court.
On March 11, the league shut down following Rudy Gobert’s positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test, suddenly forcing players to practice social distancing rather than prepare for the playoffs. Now commissioner Adam Silver has been entrusted with the difficult task of guiding the NBA through one of the most turbulent periods in the history of the sport.
Silver has analyzed a restart from every angle and discussed several possibilities with team owners, general managers, players and medical experts. It appears all parties are willing to accept his final decision.
“We are lining up behind [Silver] on this,” one owner told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne. “The posturing will end. Nothing is going to be perfect for everyone.”
Here’s everything we know about the NBA’s return and what to expect for the rest of the 2019-20 season.
When will the NBA return in 2020?
- Regular season start date: Friday, July 31
- NBA Finals Game 7 (if necessary): Monday, Oct. 12
The NBA is targeting a start date of July 31, according to multiple reports. The latest possible date for a Game 7 of the NBA Finals is Oct. 12, per Wojnarowski, offering the potential for an NBA-NFL doubleheader with Week 5 of “Monday Night Football.”
All games will be held at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. Teams will begin training at their own sites in July then relocate to Orlando for full camps later in the month, according to Wojnarowski.
How many NBA teams are going to Orlando?
The league’s Board of Governors approved a 22-team format, which will include the 16 teams in playoff position based on the current standings and six additional teams within six games of the No. 8 seed in their respective conferences (Kings, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns, Trail Blazers, Wizards).
(UPDATE: The National Basketball Players Association approved the proposal a day later.)
While some owners pushed for all 30 teams to participate, there were reportedly multiple teams not interested in returning for a few meaningless games.
“Adam Silver knows this privately from his conversations with teams. There are not 30 teams who want to play,” Wojnarowski told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt. “Now they won’t all say that publicly, but privately, he knows that there are teams and there are players on those teams that don’t want to come back.”
Mandatory training camps and regional fall leagues could be implemented for the eight teams left behind, per Wojnarowski.
Eastern Conference teams
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Toronto Raptors
- Boston Celtics
- Miami Heat
- Indiana Pacers
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Brooklyn Nets
- Orlando Magic
- Washington Wizards
Western Conference teams
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Denver Nuggets
- Utah Jazz
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Houston Rockets
- Dallas Mavericks
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Portland Trail Blazers
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Sacramento Kings
- San Antonio Spurs
- Phoenix Suns
How will the 2020 NBA regular season and playoffs work?
Each of the 22 remaining teams will play eight regular season games in order to determine playoff positioning in both conferences.
If the No. 9 seed in each conference is more than four games behind the No. 8 seed at the conclusion of the regular season, the No. 8 seed will earn the final playoff spot. If the No. 9 seed is four games or fewer behind the No. 8 seed, then those teams will enter a play-in tournament (double-elimination for the eighth seed, single-elimination for the ninth seed).
The playoffs will follow the typical format with full best-of-seven series all the way through the NBA Finals.
When is the 2020 NBA Draft and free agency?
- 2020 NBA Draft: Thursday, Oct. 15
- Opening of free agency: Sunday, Oct. 18
The NBA Draft lottery will be held Aug. 25, and the 2020 NBA Draft will follow on Oct. 15, according to Wojnarowski. (Teams will be assigned lottery odds based on their records through March 11.) Free agency will kick off Oct. 18, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
If all of these dates stay in place, the 2020-21 NBA regular season would likely begin on Dec. 1, 2020.
Coronavirus testing among safety precautions in Orlando
The NBA plans to have daily testing for the novel coronavirus, and if a player tests positive, the league would remove that player from the team environment to quarantine.
Players and coaches will be permitted to golf and eat at outdoor restaurants in Orlando, but social distancing rules will still apply, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. Employees working at the Walt Disney World Resort will be required to follow similar protocols.
Additional details are being negotiated by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association.
NBA standings 2020
Here are the current NBA standings as of March 11, the last day official games were played. Teams in bold are expected to be invited to Orlando to finish the regular season.