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Board of Governors to vote Thursday on plan for NBA to return

NBA commissioner Adam Silver unveils the NBA All-Star

NBA commissioner Adam Silver unveils the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award during a news conference on Feb. 15, 2020 in Chicago. Credit: AP/David Banks

After nearly three months since the NBA shut down, commissioner Adam Silver will hold a call with the Board of Governors Thursday afternoon for the formality of approving the plan to return to action.

Once the vote is complete, expected to be unanimously approved after Silver involved the teams and players association in the planning, 22 teams will begin preparations to head to Orlando to resume the season. The NBA will conduct an abbreviated finish to the regular season for the 22 teams — all playing eight games to finalize the seeding for the postseason. That will provide a chance for the 16 teams that were in the playoff picture when the season was suspended and the six that were within six games of a playoff spot.

The return may be highly anticipated, but it is not without its risks. Florida’s Department of Health confirmed 1,317 additional cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the total to 58,764 confirmed cases of the disease in the state. The daily total was the highest since April 17. Silver has stressed since the suspension of the season when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive on March 11 that safety and data would lead the process of a possible return to action.

“We have to respect what’s going on now, the pandemic,” Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri said on ESPN Wednesday. “We can’t forget the health aspect of this. I think Adam has done an incredible job of going through the process and making sure we have all these things right before we get to this.

“Now the where, the what, all those, we all have to compromise here. Where it’s held, if it’s Orlando, what the format is, all those things are going to have to be compromised. The game has to come back in some way.”

The Brooklyn Nets, currently in seventh place in the Eastern Conference will be among the 22 teams and with a six-game advantage over ninth-place Washington, only needs to keep the lead above four games to avoid the possibility of needing to participate in a play-in round.

That means the season is over for the Knicks, who will finish at 21-45 and begin what is expected to be a quick search for a new head coach — Tom Thibodeau is the front-runner heading into the process that will also include interviews for interim coach Mike Miller, former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson and others. The hope, according to a source is to have a decision made before the end of the month.

For the teams heading down to Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World for the single-site resumption of the season, it will entail a finish to the regular season beginning July 31 and ending no later than October 12. That will be followed by the NBA Draft and a start up to the 2020-21 season no sooner than Christmas.

The addition of six teams to the current 16 will give berths in the bubble to the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns in the West and the Washington Wizards in the East. If, after the eight games, the No. 8 seed has a lead of at least four games then the seed is secured. If a ninth seed is within four games of the eighth spot (New Orleans, Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio currently are within four games of Memphis) then a play-in round will be held with the ninth seed needing to win twice while the eighth seed needs just one win to advance.

With the eight game schedule a number of teams have already secured their place in the postseason — the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and the Nets. The Dallas Mavericks are currently in seventh place in the West, seven games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies and 10 1/2 ahead of the three teams tied for ninth, so have nearly clinched a spot. Memphis and Orlando, currently in the eight spots, have not clinched, but the Magic have a 5 1/2 game lead on Washington already.

The system still has details that need to be explained, but revenue for the resumption of the season will be shared among all 30 teams, including the eight not participating. The teams in the complex for the resumption of the season will be subject to strict safety protocols, but ESPN reported that players and staff will be allowed to golf and eat at outdoor restaurants in the complex.

The eight games to be played is expected to be the next eight on the schedule when the season was suspended. If any of the games include a team not included in the restart then it would advance to the next game on the schedule.

New York Sports