- The Washington Times
Wednesday, June 3, 2020

It’s the promise basketball fans around the world have been waiting to hear:

The NBA is back.

The NBA’s Board of Governors will hold a call Thursday afternoon and vote on a 22-team format to resume the season in Florida this summer after it was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The team owners have “the intention of approving the league’s plan,” ESPN reported.

The 22 teams heading to the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex on the Disney campus near Orlando would play eight regular-season games to determine playoff seeding starting around July 31, reports said. The traditional 16-team playoffs would follow, beginning sometime in August.

Among the 22 teams invited? The Washington Wizards. You read that right.

Despite owning a record of 24-40 when the season was suspended March 11, the Wizards were in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, 5.5 games behind the Orlando Magic and six behind the Brooklyn Nets. Reports confirmed the Wizards were one of six teams outside the traditional playoff picture who will be included in the restart.

The other five all hail from the more competitive Western Conference: the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns. Each of those teams have better records than Washington and are within striking distance of eighth place in the West.

But how long will the Wizards last in Florida?

As the 22 teams play eight regular-season games for seeding purposes, the Wizards have the opportunity to play themselves into the playoffs. If at the end of the regular season, the No. 9 team in either conference is within four games of No. 8, a play-in series will determine the last playoff seed, according to reports. Otherwise, the No. 8 is safe.

The Wizards, then, could win several of their eight allotted games in Florida to force a play-in series for the No. 8 seed, likely against the Magic or the current 7th-place Nets. The length of the play-in series was not revealed, but if the Wizards won it, they’d slot into the playoff bracket against the No. 1 seed — most likely the Milwaukee Bucks.

If not, they’ll be sent home from the “bubble” early.

An important reminder: Both John Wall and Wizards coach Scott Brooks have made clear that Wall will not return from his injury and play during the 2019-20 season, if and when games resume. Wall has been out since late December 2018 with a heel injury that turned into a torn Achilles tendon when he slipped and fell in his home shortly after surgery.

There would also be some jostling for playoff positioning during the eight-game restart. In the East, Toronto and Boston are separated by three games for the No. 2 spot and Miami, Indiana and Philadelphia are separated by two games for the No. 4 spot. Out West, the Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston are all within four games of one another in the race for the No. 2 seed in that bracket.

ESPN reported that the latest possible date for the NBA Finals to end would be Oct. 12.

The eight teams who will not participate in the restart under this plan are the Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors.

Some elements of the restart plan still could be changed, and other matters are still being negotiated — such as how much of a percentage of their salaries that players will lose because some regular season games will be canceled. If 15% of the regular season is not played, which would be the current estimate based on the proposal, players would have to give up roughly $610 million in salary for this season.

The NBA’s restart plan follows the NHL’s announcement in late May that it would split 24 teams into two hub cities and restart sometime this summer, expected to be late July or early August. Major League Soccer also plans to resume competition with a tournament in Orlando.

“I’m all in from the state’s perspective,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference in his state Wednesday. “I don’t think you could find a better place than Orlando to do this. I think it’s very exciting.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.