June 4, 2020 / 6:46 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 3-NBA-League approves plan to resume season in July at Disney World

* NBA Finals will conclude no later tan Oct. 12

* Playoffs will follow best-of-seven format (Adds quotes and details)

By Frank Pingue

June 4 (Reuters) - The NBA’s Board of Governors have approved a plan to restart the suspended season with a tentative July 31 start at Disney World in Florida amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the league said on Thursday.

The plan would see 22 of the NBA’s 30 teams play eight seeding games to determine a 16-team playoff field that would follow the traditional post-season format with four best-of-seven series that would crown a champion no later than Oct. 12.

“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,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a news release.

The league said approval from its Board of Governors, which came on the day originally scheduled for the start of the NBA Finals, is the first formal step among the many required to resume the season.

According to ESPN, the vote on the format was 29-1, with the Portland Trail Blazers voting against the proposal.

All games, practices and housing would be at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex which is inside the Orlando resort and has multiple hotels and arenas, and would allow the league to limit outside exposure.

The NBA was the first North American sports league to suspend its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic after one of its players tested positive for the new coronavirus in mid-March with five weeks remaining in the 82-game regular season.

The 22 returning teams would be comprised of the eight teams from each of the two conferences currently in playoff positions plus the six clubs that are six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences.

SOME TEAMS DISAPPOINTED

At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the best combined records across regular-season games and seeding games would qualify for the playoffs.

A play-in tournament would be used to determine the final playoff seed in each conference if the team with the eighth-best combined record is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined record in the same conference.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the teams excluded from the NBA’s return-to-play plan because of their record, expressed disappointment at not being able to play more games but said they understood and accepted the decision.

“It is important that we be a good team mate not only to the NBA, but to the other 29 teams to support the efforts to complete this season and prepare for next season in a healthy and safe manner,” the Timberwolves said in a statement.

If everything goes according to plan, the NBA said the 2020-21 season would begin on Dec. 1.

The league also said it plans to hold its 2020 NBA Draft Lottery to determine the order of the first 14 selections on Aug. 25. Lottery teams would be comprised of the eight clubs that do not participate in the restart and the six that go to Florida but do not qualify for the playoffs.

The actual NBA Draft, typically held in June, is now scheduled for Oct. 15. (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, Editing by Franklin Paul/Pritha Sarkar/Ken Ferris)

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