The NBA has told the National Basketball Players Association that it will present a 22-team plan for restarting the season to the league’s board of governors on Thursday, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
The teams that will be going to the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex on the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida would play eight games to determine playoff seeding starting around July 31 before the postseason begins, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Wednesday because the league has not released its proposal publicly.
The plan, if approved, would have 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams going to Disney and the cutoff being that teams must be within six games of a playoff spot at this point. Playoffs would start in August, and the NBA Finals will likely stretch into October, the person said.
The Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics already have clinched playoff spots — and, if only eight games are left, that would mean the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets would theoretically have clinched spots as well.
The Dallas Mavericks would be virtually assured of clinching a West spot, holding a seven-game lead over eighth-place Memphis. So that would mean the Grizzlies, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix all would be in the running for the No. 8 seed out West. In the East, Washington is six games behind No. 7 Brooklyn and 5-1/2 games behind No. 8 Orlando — so within range of triggering a play-in series.
For a play-in series to happen to determine the No. 8 seed on either playoff bracket, the ninth-place team would have to be within four games of eighth place. If a play-in series occurs, it would basically be a best-of-two — where the No. 9 seed would have to win two head-to-head matchups to take over the No. 8 spot.
There would also be some jostling for playoff positioning happening in the eight-game restart. In the East, Toronto and Boston are separated by three games for the No. 2 spot and Miami, Indiana and Philadelphia are separated by two games for the No. 4 spot. Out West, the Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston are all within four games of one another in the race for the No. 2 seed on that bracket.
There are still some elements of the restart plan that could be changed, and other matters are still being negotiated — such as how much of a percentage of their salaries that players will lose because some regular season games will be canceled. If 15% of the regular season is not played, which would be the current estimate based on the proposal, players would have to give up roughly $610 million in salary for this season.
It’s also unclear what will happen to the eight teams that would not be vying for a postseason berth under the proposed format — Charlotte, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Cleveland, Minnesota and Golden State. If the 2020-21 NBA season doesn’t start until December at the earliest, which would seem to be a very real possibility, those teams could go about nine months without playing games and some have expressed concerns over what that will mean for player development.
The NBA suspended its season March 11, becoming the first of the U.S. major pro leagues to do so after it became known that Utah’s All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The list of NBA players who were known to test positive eventually grew to 10 — not all were identified — and Commissioner Adam Silver said that the actual total was even higher.
The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is a 255-acre campus with multiple arenas that could host games simultaneously and has been home to, among other things, the Jr. NBA World Championship in recent years. ESPN is primarily owned by Disney, one of the NBA’s broadcast partners.
(This story was originally published on June 3, 2020.)