- The Washington Times
Thursday, June 4, 2020

The NBA Board of Governors voted Thursday to approve a return-to-play format that will bring 22 teams, including the Washington Wizards, to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for games beginning July 31.

The National Basketball Players Association is expected to approve the league’s plan on a conference call Friday — and eight weeks later, professional basketball will be back.

Teams voted 29-1 in favor of the plan, with the Portland Trail Blazers as the lone dissenter, ESPN and The Athletic reported. The vote means that 22 teams now can look forward to a resumption and eventual conclusion of the 2019-20 season, which has been suspended since March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said via a press release. “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.”

Under the format, 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams will play eight regular-season games to help determine the seeding for the traditional 16-team playoffs.

The Wizards, currently in ninth place in the East, must finish within four games of eighth in the conference to trigger a “play-in series” to decide the eighth seed. At 24-40, they are 5½ games behind eighth-place Orlando and six games behind seventh-place Brooklyn.

If Washington finishes in ninth place, it would have to go 2-0 in a two-game series to win the berth; otherwise, the No. 8 seed would advance to the postseason. The NBA Finals will be contested in early October, with Oct. 12 the final possible date for a Game 7.

Assuming the plan is ratified, the NBA draft lottery will be rescheduled for Aug. 25, with the draft to follow Oct. 15. If the Wizards don’t qualify for the playoffs and are sent home from Florida early, they at least will earn a lottery pick for the trouble.

The 2020-21 NBA season “would likely begin” on Dec. 1, the league added.

Each team’s eight regular-season games will be “selected from its remaining regular-season matchups,” the press release said. Considering eight NBA teams were eliminated and won’t travel to Orlando, the Wizards’ eight opponents likely will be Boston, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Boston, Phoenix and Milwaukee.

That’s two games against the team with the best record in the league, the 53-12 Bucks, plus two games against the Celtics, who are third in the East.

More details have yet to be revealed, including how often players, coaches and staff in the “bubble” will be tested for COVID-19.

Games are expected to be played in ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex on Disney property. The complex includes an arena, a fieldhouse with four basketball courts and another building called the Visa Center that can hold up to six courts.

ESPN reported that not only would players be housed in Disney hotels, they would be given access to Disney golf courses and outdoor restaurants, with social distancing still required.

The NBA considered countless restart options after suspending the season on March 11 and whittled that list down to four possibilities last week. From there, the 22-team plan quickly began to gain momentum.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.