Finally, the announcement basketball fans have been waiting months to hear. The NBA WILL continue the 2019-2020 season. The season will begin on July 31st and the last game of an NBA Finals would be played on October 12th. While insider Shams Charania has noted in a tweet that “there is a lot of work still to be done…still protocols, health and safety measures that need to be addressed,” it seems as though Adam Silver has finally figured out a unique way to bring back the NBA. Check out the full Adrian Wojnarowski tweet below:
So the NBA’s inviting 22 teams to Orlando: 13 Western Conference, 9 Eastern Conference. Eight-regular season games per team. Play-in for the 8th seeds. July 31-October 12. Vote tomorrow to ratify.
The NBA’s back.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 3, 2020
The Format of the NBA’s Return
The plan features 22 out of the 30 teams that will be returning for the rest of the season, with 13 teams from the Western Conference and 9 teams from the Eastern Conference. There will be 8 regular season games left for each team and they will all be played in a Orlando. Players will be able to eat at outdoor restaurants and golf in the area as long as they maintain social distancing.
Along with the 16 teams that currently hold playoff berths, 6 additional teams will have a chance to make a desperate push for the playoffs: the New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs. Here is a graphic of every team returning:
The NBA’s return plan includes 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 3, 2020
The plan is as follows: if the 9th seed is 4 or more games behind the 8th seed, then the 8th seed will retain their spot in the playoffs. If the 9th seed is 3 or fewer games behind the 8th seed, there will be a play-in tournament which will feature single-elimination for 9th and double-elimination for 8th.
Teams on the cusp of the playoffs (listed above) will have a legitimate shot to get into the playoffs. There have been many rumors that the NBA would love to see a Zion Williamson vs. Lebron James round 1, which in part, motivated them to create this format. It also encourages a superstar such as Damian Lillard, who has been questioning whether or not he would return to the hardwood if he wasn’t playing for a postseason opportunity, to come back since the Trail Blazers are only 3.5 games behind the 8th place Grizzlies. It gives these teams a glimmer of hope to make a postseason push in 8 games.
Unfortunately with this 22 team format, you have a few more losers than winners. The 8 teams (Knicks, Hawks, Timberwolves, Bulls, Warriors, Pistons, Cavaliers, Hornets) that were not invited to return for this season will miss out on valuable time to develop their (for the most part) young rosters and gain momentum leading into next season.
Atlanta Hawks Coach Lloyd Pierce, expressed his disappointment regarding the decision for the NBA to not include all 30 teams back. Pierce, who was recently on The Jump with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, said: “I coach the youngest team in the NBA. And the biggest thing we can benefit from is playing basketball, and the game has been taken away from all of us at this point. If the season is going to resume and we’re still not a part of it, it hurts our growth, it hurts our product, it hurts our ability to continue the momentum that we need going into next season. They need game experience and so we need to play basketball, we want to play basketball.”
We have officially entered the “return of professional sports post the COVID-19 outbreak” time period. Will the eventual return of this NBA season be perfect? Absolutely not. This is a learning process for all sports, especially given the restrictions due to the still-ongoing global pandemic. Kudos to the NBA for at least formulating a sufficient plan to give several teams who’s seasons ended prematurely a chance to fight their way into the postseason and satisfying the majority of NBA teams. For those who are upset with this format or prefer the approach the NHL took, with all due respect, go kick rocks. Just be happy we’re getting a finish to what already was shaping up to be a great season.