The league’s board of governors voted Thursday to approve a 22-team format to restart the 2019-20 season on July 31 at the ESPN Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.
The vote to return was 29-1, with only the Portland Trail Blazers voting against the proposal, preferring a 20-team format that would’ve favored them.
“We play for an ownership group that actually listens to its players and has a backbone,” wrote Trail Blazers’ guard CJ McCollum on Twitter. “We voiced what we felt was the best option and they followed our lead. I commend our front office and Jody Allen.”
The NBA last played games on March 11, the same day Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, which triggered a suspension of the season. League commissioner Adam Silver spoke of the choice made to return.
“The Board's approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” 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,” he added.
Of the 22 teams, 13 will be from the Western Conference, and nine from the Eastern, based on the current NBA Standings, leaving the New York Knicks out of the picture and effectively ending their season.
Each team will play eight regular season games, with a potential play-in tournament being held to determine the eighth and final playoff seeds. Teams will begin training in Orlando on July 9, with games beginning on July 31.
The NBA Draft Lottery is now set for August 25, with the actual draft scheduled to be held on October 15, followed by free agency starting on October 18, with a likely start to the 2020-21 season on December 1.