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NBA BOG commits to 2020 season relaunch at Disney World

An NBA season relaunch is one tap after the league Board of Governors approved a 22-team tournament to begin July 31 at ESPN Wide World of Sports (WWoS) complex at Disney World.

The next steps: come to an agreement with the National Basketball Players Association and finalize a deal with Disney World for both playing facilities and hotel rooms. Player safety will be the prime subject of negotiations with the players, many of whom have already approval at the league returning to play.

A return to play on July 31 also sets in motion preparations for the 2020-2021 season: 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 Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver via press release.  “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 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 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. 

Now closed as part of the wider closure of Disney World, the 255-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports complex features several venues that can host basketball games closed to fans: HP Field House, the Visa Athletic Center and The Arena. Players, officials and team officials could stay at a nearby currently closed resort. The plus to hosting at ESPN Wide World of Sports: everything is already set up, between playing spaces, locker rooms, hotel rooms and broadcast facilities. Disney runs an internal WWoS broadcast network and is set up with camera, studio and editing stations. There are 30,000 or so rooms on the Disney World campus, including many operated by third-party vendors like the Four Seasons and Hilton.

Photo of the HP Field House courtesy Disney.

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