NBA Approves 22-Team Plan to Finish the 2019-20 Season at Disney World

NBA Utah Jazz
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Each team will play eight games with a play-in tournament for the final seed in each conference before the playoffs.

After several months on hiatus, the NBA made significant headway in returning to play. On Thursday's board of governors call with league commissioner Adam Silver, the owners approved a plan to finish out the remainder of the 2019-20 season at Disney World in Orlando, where eventually, a champion will be crowned, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. The vote required three-fourths support to pass, and it received a 29-1 vote from owners on the call, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The owners now need formal approval from the National Basketball Players Association before the league can move forward. The NBPA is expected to hold a virtual call on Friday to approve the plan that the owners just voted on, according to the New York Times' Marc Stein.

The league is targeting a start date of July 31, where 22 of the 30 NBA teams are expected to participate in Orlando. That will include the 16 current playoff teams as well as the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards. Teams will play an abbreviated version of the regular season that will consist of eight games, as well as a play-in tournament for the eighth seed in both conferences. The tournament will only happen if the No. 9 seed finishes within four games of the No. 8 seed, in which case the No. 9 seed will have to beat the No. 8 seed twice to earn the final playoff spot in their conference.

While NBA seasons had previously been shortened by labor disputes, never has the league halted operations so abruptly only to pick them back up months down the line. That creates a number of questions leading into the resumed season, including how teams will prepare after so much idle time. The current schedule has training camps scheduled to start on June 30, while teams invited to Orlando will travel to Florida on July 7. The San Antonio Spurs remain the only team in the league who have not opened their practice facilities for voluntary, individual workouts, but as one of the 22 teams competing in Orlando, that will surely happen soon so players can prepare for the remainder of the season.

In addition to voting on the resumption of the season, the call was also used to move the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery to Aug. 25 and NBA Draft to Oct. 15, which would come three days after the potential Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The league also informed the board of governors that free agency would start on October 18.

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after two members of the Utah Jazz, later revealed to be Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, a number of players and league figures have tested positive, including Kevin Durant, Marcus Smart and New York Knicks owner James Dolan. Those who did test positive have since recovered, and no new positive tests have been made public since. 

When the season was suspended in March, there was a legitimate fear that it wouldn't come back. There are still hurdles left to clear, and the threat of coronavirus still looms over basketball as it does the rest of society. But today's news is the greatest indication yet that the 2019-20 season will have a champion.

(This story was originally published by CBS Sports on Thursday, June 4 at 11:48 a.m. PT)