NBA set to return July 31 with 22 teams


''The NBA today approved a competitive format to restart the 2019-20 season with 22 teams returning to play and a tentative start date of Friday, July 31. The Board's approval is the first formal step among many required to resume the season," the NBA said in a statement.

NBA owners voted to restart the regular season for the 22 teams in contention for the playoffs in a near-unanimous vote of the league's Board of Governors on Thursday afternoon.

In a reported 29-1 vote, the board approved a proposal that calls for each of the 22 teams to play eight regular-season games starting July 31, with the last possible date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals being Oct. 12.

"The Board's approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season," commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "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 league said the NBA draft lottery will be Aug. 25, and the draft will be held Oct. 15, if all goes according to plan. Free agency will begin Oct. 18, according to multiple reports.

Each of the 22 teams -- 13 Western Conference teams and nine from the East -- will play eight regular-season games for seeding purposes for the playoffs. The 16 teams currently in postseason position are joined by the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference and the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference.

The Pelicans (28-36), Kings (28-36) and Trail Blazers (29-37) sit 3 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies (32-33) in the Western Conference. The Spurs (27-36) are four in back of the Grizzlies, while the Suns (26-39) are six back.

The Trail Blazers were the only team voting against the proposal on Thursday, per multiple reports.

The Wizards (24-40) reside six games behind the seventh-place Brooklyn Nets (30-34) and 5 1/2 behind the eighth-place Orlando Magic (30-35).

Per the league, if the ninth seed is more than four games behind the eighth seed after the eight regular-season games, the eighth seed would earn the playoff spot; if the ninth seed is four or fewer games behind, then the eighth and ninth seed would enter a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth.

The Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Nets and Magic currently occupy playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers join the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Grizzlies in residing in playoff position in the Western Conference.

Multiple outlets reported teams will have all players report June 21, with coronavirus testing beginning the next day. Then training camps will start June 30, before travel to Orlando on July 7.

As for the 2020-21 season, the league said the tentative plan is to start Dec. 1, after beginning training camps on Nov. 10, though dates are flexible.

The NBA season was placed on hiatus on March 11 after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.

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