The NBA is set to become the first major North American sports league to make a return to action, with play scheduled to resume on 31 July, according to multiple reports.
The NBA season was stopped due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March but the league’s board of governors have approved a plan that will see the 22 teams still in playoff contention travel to Disney World in Orlando to play eight regular-season games. The 16 teams that would qualify for the postseason if it started today will compete along with the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs from the Western Conference and the Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference.
Once the games in Orlando have been completed, the No 8 seed will make the playoffs if they are more than four games ahead of the No 9 seed. If the margin is closer, there will be a play-in tournament to see who advances. The latest the NBA finals could end will be 12 October, with free agency and the draft set to open after that.
The terms of the plan mean the season is over for the teams determined to have too remote a chance of making the playoffs: the Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and last season’s finalists, the Golden State Warriors.
Players and staff would be isolated to an extent in Disney World, with the players able to play golf and eat at restaurants at the resort while being cut off from the rest of the world and the threat of Covid-19. It is expected players will be regularly tested for the virus and will enter quarantine should they prove to be positive for Covid-19.