We now return you to our regularly scheduled program.
In about eight weeks.
Life interrupted us in so many ways over nearly three months since we last had an NBA game to watch.
Geez, has it really been three months? Seems more like three years.
But the balls are starting to bounce again. Sneakers are squeaking. Sweat is dripping.
The NBA is going to return to action in July, officially July 31. The news came from commissioner Adam Silver on Thursday and got the approval of the league’s board of governors.
The league announced that the Orlando-Disney area will be home base for the 22 teams that are qualified to participate in the end of the season – called “seeding games,” and the playoffs. Eight teams were lopped off as league owners agreed any team within six games of the eight-seeded team in each conference would be invited to the tournament.
The teams that play will convene at Orlando-area hotels. It is believed they will not leave until their season is over although details still are being finalized about whether any family members will be allowed to attend.
As Mavericks president of basketball operations said: it’s like Hotel California. You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.
So what does the restart mean for the Mavericks?
First, their remaining eight regular-season games will get them to 75. All of the 22 teams will be over 70 games.
The standings after those games will reflect the playoff seedings, done as usual in the Eastern and Western conferences. There will be one exception. The teams that are seeded eighth and ninth in each conference will play a tournament to determine who will be No. 8.
The Mavericks are seven games ahead of No. 8 Memphis meaning that if they can win two of their eight seeding games, they will clinch no worse than the No. 7 playoff seed and avoid the play-in series. They will have ample opportunity to move up in the standings.
Their remaining schedule, if the original scheduling is followed, would be: Phoenix, LA Clippers, Sacramento, Portland, Phoenix, Houston, Utah and Milwaukee. It’s possible that other teams from their remaining 15 games of the regular season will be chosen, but five of those games were to be against teams that are not in the 22-team tournament.
Bottom line: The Mavericks are virtually assured of being in the playoffs and could move up the seedings ladder.
The Mavericks have allowed individual workouts for the last few days at their practice facility. Players – scattered all across the globe – have begun to return to begin serious workouts to get back into playing shape. All of those workouts have been on a voluntary basis so far.
Practices, games, the media coverage, everything is going to look different upon the league’s resumption. But some things don’t change. Every game will have a winner and a loser. The Lakers and Clippers will still be beasts.
The Mavericks will still be a team that most others don’t want to see in the playoffs.
The Mavericks finished with a 40-27 record when play was stopped on March 11. They were seventh in the Western Conference and 13th in the overall NBA standings.
There was talk that the playoffs might be seeded the field had been seeded 1 through 16, they would have played the Clippers. If there is no change in the West standings after the seeding games, they will still play the Clippers.
But that all could change with the eight-game finish to the season.
The Mavericks said in a statement: “We are excited to take another positive step toward the restart of the 2019-20 season. The NBA is taking all the appropriate measures, and working tirelessly to provide a safe environment for our team and staff. While there are more decisions to make, the Dallas Mavericks are hopeful to have basketball back soon.”
There will be no fans, of course. Coaches won’t have to yell out plays or criticisms during timeouts. They can whisper.
There will be multiple playing venues, all at the ESPN sports compound near the Disney theme near Orlando. It’s going to be weird. ESPN and, presumably, TNT and ABC will have access to the games. Local television and printed-word media likely will not. Their access to players and coaches will come through virtual interview sessions and over-the-phone one-on-ones.
How the pregame, postgame and off-day access for media members is handled has yet to be divulged. Below is the NBA’s news release.
NEW YORK, June 4, 2020 – The NBA Board of Governors today approved a competitive format to restart the 2019-20 season with 22 teams returning to play and a tentative start date of Friday, July 31. The Board’s approval is the first formal step among many required to resume the season.
The NBA is working to finalize a comprehensive season restart plan with the National Basketball Players Association. The NBA and the NBPA are working with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials to establish a rigorous program to prevent and mitigate the risk related to COVID-19, including a regular testing protocol and stringent safety practices. The season restart is also contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, as a single site for a campus for all games, practices and housing for the remainder of the season.
Based on the competitive format that the NBA Board of Governors approved today, the 22 returning teams would be the 16 teams (eight per conference) in current playoff positions and the six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences. Those two groups comprise teams with the NBA’s 22 best records.
“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “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. We also recognize that as we prepare to resume play, our society is reeling from recent tragedies of racial violence and injustice, and we will continue to work closely with our teams and players to use our collective resources and influence to address these issues in very real and concrete ways.”
The season restart would begin with eight “seeding games” for each returning team and include the possibility of a play-in tournament for the eighth and final playoff seed in each conference depending on combined records across regular-season games and seeding games. Once the 16-team playoff field is set, the NBA Playoffs would proceed in a traditional conference-based format with four rounds and best-of-seven series in each round. The NBA Finals would end no later than Oct. 12. (See below for the list of returning teams and additional details.)
If, as tentatively scheduled, the season resumes on July 31, then the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery would be rescheduled for Aug. 25, the 2020 NBA Draft would be held on Oct. 15 and the 2020-21 NBA regular season would likely begin on Dec. 1, 2020.
The 14 NBA Lottery teams would be the eight teams that do not participate in the restart and the six teams that participate in the restart but do not qualify for the playoffs. These teams would be seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through games of March 11. The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.
NBA Season Restart: Competitive Format Plan
The 22 returning teams for the season restart would be the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference and the Los Angeles Lakers, 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 from the Western Conference.
Each returning team would play eight seeding games, as selected from its remaining regular-season matchups. 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.
If the team with the eighth-best combined record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined record in the same conference, then the team with the eighth-best record would earn the eighth playoff seed.
If the team with the eighth-best combined record in its conference (Team A) is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined record in the same conference (Team B), then Teams A and B would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the eighth playoff seed. To earn the eighth playoff seed, Team A would need to defeat Team B once and Team B would need to defeat Team A two games in a row.
The 2019-20 season would conclude with a traditional playoff format with best-of-seven series in the first round, conference semifinals, conference finals and the NBA Finals.