2020 NBA — 'Basketball overload' to start on July 30Friday, July 03, 2020
BY MARK ARCHER
The 2019-20 National Basketball Association (NBA) season was abruptly interrupted on March 11, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On June 4, the NBA's board of governors approved a competitive format for the restart of the season, with 22 teams returning to compete in a 'basketball overload' starting July 30.
Following that approval on June 26, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association finalised a comprehensive plan for the July 30 restart. The restart includes stringent health and safety protocols, a single-site campus at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, and the goal of taking collective action to combat systemic racism and promote social justice.
There will be no live audience or tickets available for the remainder of the season due to COVID-19 health protocols. One of the big mysteries surrounding the entire plan is the physical condition of players after this unprecedented, bizarre hiatus, and how contending teams intend to manage minutes and playtime in preparation for the actual games.
The 22 teams are slated to start arriving in Orlando on July 7, quarantine for 36-48 hours upon arrival, then hold training camp and participate in inter-squad scrimmages.
There are nine teams from the Eastern Conference and 13 from the West but, truth be told (and apologies to the Washington Wizards), the only play-off spot truly up for grabs is the final spot in the West.
Speaking of the West, the Phoenix Suns are massive long shots to make it through. At the same time, the San Antonio Spurs will not have the services of LaMarcus Aldridge (who had shoulder surgery three weeks ago), so the other Western Conference teams should battle for placings.
Each team heading to Disney will play eight seeding games to determine the 16 teams that will make the play-offs. There will be a maximum of seven matches per day with the Jazz and Pelicans playing at 6:30 pm EST and the Clippers and Lakers facing off at 9:00 pm EST to kick off the restart on July 30.
The seven teams in each conference with the best records (regular-season games + seeding games) will clinch a play-off spot but the eighth seed could come down to a play-in tournament.
If the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, no play-in tournament will be necessary. The final play-off berth will go to the team with the eighth-best record (regular-season games + seeding games).
If the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, then there will be a play-in for the final spot between those two teams. This will basically be a best-of-three series where the number nine seed will have to win two head-to-head match-ups to take over the number eight spot.
There are 88 games scheduled over 15 days initially. Once the 16-team play-off field is set, the NBA play-offs will proceed in a traditional conference-based format featuring the usual best-of-seven series in the first round, conference semi-finals, conference finals, and The Finals.
The first round of the play-offs begins August 17; the conference semi-finals begin August 31, the conference finals start on September 15 and the NBA Finals begin September 30 (and end no later than October 13) — The 2020-21 NBA season is slated to commence around December 1.
On August 30, the NBA will allow for the arrival of family and guests to the Disney complex, which will add another layer of complexity to the whole set-up. Already, 16 out of 302 players tested positive for COVID-19 on June 23, and one can only assume that this will keep spreading inside the planned 'NBA bubble'.
The NBA's plan seems prepared for that to happen if the instances are isolated, but they have yet to adequately indicate what type of critical mass it would take to halt play again entirely. The league probably doesn't want to talk worst-case scenarios at the moment, but it would make sense to develop (and share) the planned worst-case protocols (if any).
A few players have opted not to participate in the restart (for various reasons) but it is not hard to envisage a scenario where one team has such a high number of COVID-19 cases that severely limit their ability to compete. What if a team (or teams) can't compete due to the level of infection, can the show still go on? What would be considered a showstopper?
It appears a lot of fingers are crossed and hoping for the best but, as long as it is happening, let's enjoy some basketball.
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Eastern Conference Western Conference
Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) Los Angeles Lakers (49-14)
Toronto Raptors (46-18) LA Clippers (44-20)
Boston Celtics (43-21) Denver Nuggets (43-22)
Miami Heat (41-24) Utah Jazz (41-23)
Indiana Pacers (39-26) Oklahoma City Thunder (40-24)
Philadelphia 76ers (39-26) Houston Rockets (40-24)
Brooklyn Nets (30-34) Dallas Mavericks (40-27)
Orlando Magic (30-35) Memphis Grizzlies (32-33)
Washington Wizards (24-40) Portland Trail Blazers (29-37)
New Orleans Pelicans (28-36)
Sacramento Kings (28-36)
San Antonio Spurs (27
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