What do we know about the return of the NBA?

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Key info ahead of the return of the 2020 NBA season

The NBA hasn’t seen any action on court since Philadelphia 76ers hosted Detroit Pistons at Wells Fargo Centre on the 11th March, but all of that could be about to change.

After a series of meetings between the NBA Board of Governors and National Basketball Players Association, a plan has been approved for the restart of the 2019/20 NBA season.

The return to action will be in a new competitive format which will take place at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida.

Eight teams are already out of the running to become 2020 NBA champions and will not returning to the court for the rest of this season. These including 2016 NBA champions Cleveland Cavaliers and last season’s runners up Golden State Warriors.

Ahead of the NBA’s return to action, we look at just when we can expect players back on the hardwood and how the new format will work.

When will the NBA return?

The NBA Board of Governors have come to a tentative agreement that the resumption of the NBA season should begin on Friday 31st July.

A comprehensive season restart plan hasn’t yet been finalised, but the NBA and the NBPA are working with public health experts, government officials and other specialists to ensure the safest possible playing conditions can be met.

Players are expected to report back to their teams for the first time on Sunday 21st June to undergo the first round of testing, before training camps are scheduled to start on Tuesday 30th June.

Teams involved in the restart are then expected to make their way down to the Disney complex in Orlando a week later on Tuesday 7th July, before the season is set to resume little over three weeks later.

Although there are no dates in place for the start of the 2020 NBA Finals, it’s expected that game seven, should it be needed, will take place no later than Monday 12th October.

How will it work?

There are 22 teams returning for the season restart. The 22 is made up from nine teams in the Eastern Conference, and 13 from the Western Conference.

Although this seems strange, there is good reason for it. The top eight teams in each conference are in by default, due to normal playoff qualification rules. After that, six teams that are six games of fewer behind the eight seed in their respective conferences were invited back too.

The top three of the Eastern Conference, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, had already qualified for the playoffs. They’ll now be joined by Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the East.

Los Angeles Lakers were the only Western Conference team to seal their playoff spot, but they’ll be joined by LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns.

The new format will see each returning team will play eight seeding games selected from the remaining regular-season matchups.

At the end of those seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the best combined record across regular-season games and the seeding games will qualify for the playoffs.

But the eight seed is where it gets a little trickier. If the eighth seed in a conference sits more than four wins ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the conference, then the top eight will have already been decided and the playoff picture finalised.

However, if the team with the eighth-best record sits four or fewer games ahead of the ninth-placed side in the same conference, then those two sides would compete in a play-in tournament to determine which side gets the eighth playoff seed.

Once we have our final 16 teams, the 2019/20 season will conclude with a traditional playoff format. This is made up of a best-of-seven series in the first round, conference semifinals, conference finals and NBA Finals.

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