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NBA Board of Governors votes for 22-team format for season’s restart

December 15, 2019 Atlanta: Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James pushes Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young out of the way as he prepares to grab a jump ball during the second half in a NBA basketball game on Sunday, December 15, 2019, in Atlanta. The Lakers beat the Hawks 101-96,   Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
December 15, 2019 Atlanta: Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James pushes Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young out of the way as he prepares to grab a jump ball during the second half in a NBA basketball game on Sunday, December 15, 2019, in Atlanta. The Lakers beat the Hawks 101-96, Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

The NBA’s Board of Governors voted to approve a 22-team format for resuming the regular season in Orlando, the league announced Thursday.

For the Hawks, who were in 14th place of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference and were one of eight teams not invited to Orlando, that essentially means their 2019-20 season has come to a close, though the National Basketball Players Association still has to approve the plan and there are more details to work out.

The Hawks went 20-47, amassing the fourth-worst record in the NBA, and had 15 games still to play when the NBA suspended the season March 11 because of the coronavirus. For their purposes, the league announced that the 14 NBA lottery teams will consist of the eight teams not invited to the restart, as well as the six teams that participate but do not make the playoffs. Those teams (including the Hawks) will be “seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through games” as of March 11, so lottery chances will not change regardless of what happens in Orlando.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “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 NBA and NBPA are “working with infections 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,” per the statement released by the league.

Also, the NBA still has to reach a formal agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando as the site/campus for the season’s restart, which would involve games, practices and housing for the remainder of the season.

The 22 teams included in the Orlando plan includes all 16 teams who were in playoff contention at the time of the season’s suspension, as well as six teams who are within six games of a playoff spot, which includes five teams in the Western Conference (Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix) and one in the Eastern Conference (Washington).

Though dates are tentative as of now, the target date to resume the season is July 31, the league announced, and the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery would be held Aug. 25, with the draft held Oct. 15 and the 2020-21 regular season beginning Dec. 1. According to ESPN, free agency is scheduled to start Oct. 18, and training camp for the 2020-21 season is scheduled to start Nov. 10.

The season’s restart will consist of eight “seeding games” for the returning 22 teams, with a possible play-in tournament for the eight seed in both conferences. After that, the playoffs would proceed as normal, with four rounds of a best-of-seven series, and the NBA Finals would end no later than Oct. 12.