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NBA eyes July 31 date for season restart

The National Basketball Association is modeling a revised schedule to end the 2019-20 season that would see a resumption on July 31 in Orlando, Florida, with the last possible date for the end of the NBA Finals on Oct. 12, according to an ESPN report.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is expected to bring a proposal of a 22-team format for a vote before to the league’s Board of Governors on June 4. The 22 teams that would resume play include the 16 teams currently holding a playoff spot and six more that were within six games of the eighth seed in each conference prior the league suspending all play in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are some clubs that have pushed for all 30 teams to be part of the NBA’s resumption. But the National Hockey League recently unveiled a similar return-to-play structure that would include playoff qualifiers and teams that were hovering on the playoff bubble, but ended the season for a handful of clubs that were further away from qualification. The NBA’s emerging plan is thematically similar.

Like ongoing return-to-play discussions happening between management and labor in every other major US sports property, the NBA’s plans also will need to be bargained with the National Basketball Players Association. 

The NBA previously confirmed it is in active discussions with the Walt Disney Co. on staging its revised season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. The July-October schedule being developed occupies the core of what normally would have been the league’s offseason period. But due to the ongoing pandemic, the NBA is abandoning all traditional scheduling norms. 

Games in Orlando will be held without attending fans, and adhering to series of strict health protocols.

If the revised NBA schedule is finalized, it is expected the league’s Draft and free agency period would follow the end of the Finals in October and occur before a revised start to the 2020-21 season.

Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta also said in a CNBC interview he agrees with the push to restart play in late July.

“The NBA definitely has their act together between the players and the league and the owners,” Fertitta said. “We all want this to happen. You’re not going to have issues there. We’re going to play basketball at the end of July. Everybody knows that. It’s going to happen.

“Is it going to be 16 teams or 30 teams or 22 teams, we have a discussion (Thursday) to … come to a final conclusion of what we’re going to do. There’s people that want to just go to the playoffs. There’s some teams that don’t want to play because they’re not going to get in the playoffs. But then, there’s people that feel like it’s tradition and all 30 teams should show up. We’re all going to come to terms with this in the next couple of days. I know our players around the league are getting in shape and we’re going to have great NBA basketball this summer,” he said.