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NBA approves plan to resume in July months after coronavirus shutdown

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The NBA's board of governors has just approved a plan to resume its season on July 31, months after shutting down the league due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league announced Thursday. The season would restart with 22 of the league's 30 teams and play games at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

While the plan has been agreed upon by the owners, the NBA is working with the players' union, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) to finalize the details. Both the NBA and NBPA will consult with infectious disease specialists and government officials to establish a "rigorous" program to prevent and mitigate COVID-19 risks, the NBA said. This includes implementing testing protocols and safety practices.  

"The Board's approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. "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."

Games, practices and housing would all be held at the Disney World resort campus site. The format approved Thursday would allow for 16 teams — top eight per conference — plus six others that are six or fewer games behind the eighth seed in each respective conference. The season would begin with eight games and it includes the possibility of a play-in tournament. 

If a team with the eight-best combined record in its conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with ninth-best combined record, both games would need to complete in a play-in tournament. The higher seed would need to beat the other team once, while the team with fewer wins would need to win two in a row in order to advance. 

After the 16 playoff teams are set, it would proceed in a traditional conference-based format. The NBA Finals would end no later than October 12, according to the NBA. 

If the season resumes on the planned date, the 2020 NBA Draft would be rescheduled for October 15 and the 2020-2021 season would begin on December 1.

The plan was passed 29-1, with the Portland Trail Blazers reportedly being the single team that didn't approve of the measure. The team that didn't get selected to play were the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves, Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets. 

As the NBA works toward returning, Silver also acknowledged the protests over the death of George Floyd and said the league will work closely with teams and players to "use our collective resources and influence to address these issues in very real and concrete ways."

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