NBA one step closer to returning

The NBA is one step closer to resuming its season.

On Thursday, the league announced its owners had approved a return to play plan that would see 22 teams come to Orlando for a mix of regular season games, a potential play-in game for the final playoff spot in each conference and then the normal 16-team playoff field. The targeted date for the season to resume is July 31.

The league has been suspended since March 11 when the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a press release.  “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts.”

Of the 22 teams, 13 are from the Western Conference and nine are from the Eastern Conference. The NBA decided to allow every current playoff team to return, as well as teams within six games of the No. 8 seed in each conference.

All the teams will play eight more regular season games for seeding purposes. It’s possible there could be a play-in game for the No. 8 seed if teams’ records across regular season and seeding games are the same. Once that is determined, the league will move into the normal playoff structure. There will be 16 teams with each round being a best-of-seven series.

The plan must still be approved by the NBA Players Association, though that is believed to be a formality, as leaders of the union reportedly worked with the NBA on the plan.

When the season was suspended, Milwaukee owned the best record in the NBA and the best record in the Eastern Conference by 6.5 games on Toronto. The Bucks will be looking for their first NBA title since 1971.