Nearly three months after the National Basketball Association (NBA) suspended its 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league has officially begun the process of restarting the campaign. On Thursday, the NBA’s Board of Governors officially approved a return to play involving the 22 teams still in contention for playoff spots, The Athletic‘s Shams Charania reported via Twitter.
The measure passed by a 29-1 vote, with the only dissenting club being the Portland Trail Blazers, tweeted Charania. Now, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) must also approve the plan.
Although various scenarios regarding the continuation of the season were considered, the NBA ultimately moved toward resuming the season at a single location — ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World near Orlando, Florida — with the 22-team format. Other key details of the league’s plan, which has set July 31 as the target date for resuming play, were revealed in the week leading up to Thursday’s vote.
As reported by The Athletic, the 16 teams currently holding down playoff spots will be joined by six others who were within striking distance of the bottom seeds when the season was suspended. The resumption of the season will include a full playoff schedule, as well as a play-in mini-tournament for the eighth seeds in each conference. The Board of Governors had discussed a scenario in which all of the league’s 30 teams would return, but ultimately scaled back in the interest of safety.
Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan was reportedly outspoken about player safety during the discussions that led up to the vote, strongly stating his belief that players on the teams that are out of the playoff race shouldn’t be forced to return for meaningless games this summer after what will have been a four-month hiatus.
Players have been away from the court since March 11, when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player to test positive for coronavirus infection. The Jazz were slated to face the Oklahoma City Thunder that night, but the game was postponed in the wake of Gobert’s test result. Shortly thereafter, the league made the move to suspend its season.
In the days that followed, pro sports organizations around the world followed suit by suspending play or cancelling games and events outright.
Although the NBA and other sports leagues are on the verge of returning and states around the U.S. are in the midst of the phased reopening of their respective economies, the novel coronavirus remains a looming threat. As reported previously by The Inquisitr, the COVID-19 death toll continues to rise, with the U.S. eclipsing 100,000 total deaths just last week.