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The NBA’s July return at Disney World, explained

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The NBA is officially back with 22 teams, possible play-in games, and a July 31st start date.

The NBA is finally making its 2019-20 season return after suspending its season on March 11th in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s everything you need to know:

When will the NBA return?

The NBA might make its return a day earlier than expected. While the original start date was July 31, the date could reportedly be moved by one day to July 30. The league voted on the proposed plan on on June 4th during the league’s board of governor’s meeting. The vote was approved with a 29-1 vote, with the Portland Trail Blazers being the only team to vote against it.

Where will the teams play?

According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the NBA will resume play in Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida. The 220-acre complex has three arenas where the league can hold games as well as ample hotels, which would make it easier for players and their families to limit outside exposure while the season concludes.

Which teams will participate?

The approved model will feature 22 teams. That includes 16 playoffs teams and six more teams. The NBA would resume a modified regular season that allows the six teams currently out of the playoffs, but that are within six games of their conference’s final postseason berth, to qualify. There will be eight regular season games for them, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Because they currently have a playoff spot, these teams will be invited:

Eastern Conference Western Conference
Eastern Conference Western Conference
Milwaukee Bucks Los Angeles Lakers
Toronto Raptors Los Angeles Clippers
Boston Celtics Denver Nuggets
Miami Heat Utah Jazz
Indiana Pacers Oklahoma City Thunder
Philadelphia 76ers Houston Rockets
Brooklyn Nets Dallas Mavericks
Orlando Magic Memphis Grizzlies

Because they’re within six games of a playoff spot, these teams will be invited

Eastern Conference Western Conference
Eastern Conference Western Conference
Washington Wizards New Orleans Pelicans
Portland Trail Blazers
Phoenix Suns
Sacramento Kings
San Antonio Spurs

There is an added caveat for the extra six teams invited to play. Whichever team ends up the ninth seed can still make the playoffs. If the ninth seed is more than four games behind the eight seed, then the eight seed would automatically be in. However, if the ninth seed is behind the eight seed by fewer than four games, then the league will hold play-in tournament for the final playoff spot. The play-in format would require a double elimination for the eight seed while the ninth seed would only need a single elimination.

The Portland Trail Blazers, for example, were 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies and the final Western Conference playoff seed. Since Memphis did not clinch their playoff spot, Portland would have the opportunity to move up the standings in the eight-game regular season. If the Grizzlies’ 3.5-game lead holds even after the NBA plays its July and August regular season games, Portland would join the play-in tournament and still be able to make the playoffs.

The Blazers’ Damian Lillard had previously expressed his interest this a play-in format. He even stated that he would not play in an abbreviated regular season where his team would not make the playoffs , though he said he would make the trip to support his teammates.

How are fans feeling about the NBA’s return?

There’s no better pulse on NBA communities than through our team sites. We spoke Christian Rivas from our Los Angeles Lakers site, Silver Screen & Roll, on what it means for the Lakers:

I think the general consensus among Lakers fans is that they just want to see LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the postseason. All of the success the team has had in the regular season has been great, but they know there’s another level that both players can go to once the playoffs start, and they got a taste of that before the season was suspended. Playoff Alex Caruso promises to be a ton of fun, too.

Mike Cali, writer for our Orlando Magic site, Orlando Pinstripe Post, also offered thoughts on resuming play. The Magic are currently the eight seed in the Eastern Conference, meaning they would be the last team in and the games would be in their home city.

For me, it goes beyond simply getting Magic basketball back. I just want basketball back in general. You don’t realize how much you value something until it is taken away. From a Magic standpoint, their stay in whatever postseason format the NBA adopts will likely be a short one, but there are still organizational benefits to be gained even from that brief stint.

The fact that the games could potentially be played at Disney World right here in Orlando, only adds another layer of intrigue. To have the Magic back on the court, and to have the ability to watch NBA games again, and to have our own backyard become the center of the basketball world would energize the Magic fanbase and give all of us four quarters a night where we can stop thinking about the challenges the world has faced and will continue to face. It will be a welcomed and much-needed temporary distraction.