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The 2019-20 NBA season came to a sudden halt on March 11, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the season’s suspension. A little over four months later, the NBA will return to finish the season in Orlando.
The Return to Play 2020 program will mark the return of the NBA from the coronavirus-related stoppage. The Return to Play program will entail many teams competing to see what playoff seeds they will hold, or if they will make the playoffs in general. The season will then continue with a full playoff schedule.
Everything will take place at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. The event will focus on finding a champion for the 2019-20 NBA season. The event will also be part of a larger initiative to support the end of systemic racism in the country.
Who Will Compete?
Twenty-two of the league’s thirty teams will compete in the season comeback. These teams were determined based on their records at the time that play was stopped.
There are nine Eastern Conference teams and thirteen Western Conference teams in the competition. All of these teams had a winning percentage of .375 or higher when play stopped.
How Is the Playoff Seeding Determined?
The best teams in the Return to Play event will enter a sixteen-team playoff field. Each team will play eight games before the playoffs begin. The games were chosen based on the remaining regular-season matchups that each club held.
The playoff seeding will be determined based on which teams in each conference have the best records. The record will entail the total from both the regular-season games and the seeding matches.
Is a Play-In Tournament Necessary?
The top seven teams in each conference will be dictated by the record. There is a chance that the eight seed will be determined through a play-in tournament.
A play-in tournament will occur if the eighth-best team in a conference is less than four games ahead of the ninth-best club at the end of the seeding series. The eighth and ninth-place teams will compete in a best-of-two series to see who will reach the playoffs. Whoever is in ninth would have to win two games against the eighth-place club to reach the playoffs.
How Will the Playoffs Work?
The playoffs will entail the same structure as usual. The sixteen teams will be divided by conference and will continue to play the same best-of-seven series in each round.
What Are the Key Dates?
The dates for the 2020 NBA Return to Play series will be as follows. Many of these dates relate to other things that will take place to allow the next season to run as planned:
- July 7-9 – The twenty-two teams will arrive at the Disney resort complex in Orlando.
- July 9-29 – The teams will hold training camps in Orlando. Some scrimmages will also take place, including a few involving competing teams.
- July 30 – The seeding games begin, with the Utah Jazz playing against the New Orleans Pelicans at 6:30 pm Eastern and the Los Angeles Lakers playing the LA Clippers at 9 pm.
- August 15-16 – The play-in games will take place if necessary.
- August 17 – The 2020 NBA Playoffs will officially begin.
- August 25 – The NBA Draft Lottery will take place.
- August 31 – The Conference Semifinals will start.
- September 15 – The Conference Finals begin.
- September 30 – The 2020 NBA Finals will start.
- October 13 – This is when the seventh and final game of the Finals would take place if necessary.
- October 16 – The 2020 NBA Draft will occur on this date.
- October 18 – Teams can start negotiating with free agents at 6 pm.
- October 19 – A moratorium on teams talking with free agents begins at 12:01 am.
- October 23 – Free agents can sign with clubs starting at noon.
- December 1 – This is the targeted date for when the 2020-21 NBA season will begin. The season will entail a full 82-game schedule, with the All-Star Game and break taking place February 12-14 in Indianapolis.
How Will the Scrimmages Work?
Teams can compete in three inter-squad scrimmages on the week leading up to the Return to Play event. The scrimmages will take place to allow teams to get ready for the competition and to ensure that the protocols for how games will run are working fine.
Where Are These Games Taking Place?
All games in the NBA Return to Play series and Playoffs will be at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will host these games.
The Arena, Field House, and Visa Athletic Center will host the games. All games are closed off to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions in the state of Florida, and also for the general safety of the bubble that will house the players and other personnel.
What Are the Players Doing?
All of the teams are in the middle of a massive containment bubble at the resort. While players can interact with one another, they are unable to leave the containment bubble. They could risk being banned from competing if they leave the space.
The containment bubble features various hotel rooms for everyone to stay at while competing. There are assorted activities available for players in the bubble, although details on what is available have been lax at the moment. The players will also be subject to regular tests and safety measures to ensure that the virus does not impact anyone in the area. Any team that is eliminated from the competition will have to leave the bubble.
The containment effort ensures that the NBA season will continue as planned and that no one will be at risk of harm. The issue comes as the state of Florida has become one of the world’s most heavily-impacted places relating to the coronavirus pandemic.
How Will the Draft Lottery Work?
The eight teams that do not participate in the NBA Return to Play event and the six that are eliminated before the playoffs start will enter the NBA Draft Lottery. They will receive odds based on their records as of March 11. The sixteen teams that compete in the playoffs will draft in the inverse order of their records between the regular-season games and the eight seeding games they play.
At What Times Will the Games Take Place?
Since there are three separate courts for play, there is a potential for games to take place throughout the day. These include afternoon and evening games alike.
The NBA has staggered the start times of these games to ensure a greater audience throughout the day. For instance, on August 5, the Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz will play at 2:30 pm Eastern. The Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs will start at 4 pm, while the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic will play at 8 pm. The day ends with the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics playing at 9 pm.
Is Betting Available For These Games?
You can place bets on any of these games. There will be lines available for all games, as well as various prop and futures wagers. The odds will change throughout the competition, so be sure to keep a note of how these lines evolve throughout the series.
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