The novel coronavirus outbreak halted the 2019-20 National Basketball Association (NBA) season on March 11, 2020, with Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert being the first of several players to test positive for COVID-19.
The regular season was supposed to end on April 15 and the playoffs were scheduled to begin on April 18. The NBA finals were planned for June. But with the pandemic striking, the league was postponed indefinitely. However, on June 4, the NBA's Board of Governors approved a comprehensive plan to redeem the ongoing edition of the competition.
WHEN DOES THE NBA SEASON RESTART AND WHAT IS THE FORMAT?
The 2019-20 NBA season will recommence on July 30 (Thursday).
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) finalized a competitive format on June 26 for a July 30 restart. According to this, the finals will end no later than October 13. The first round of playoffs is expected to begin on August 17.
Twenty-two out of the thirty teams in the league were chosen to be part of the resumed season. They include 16 sides (eight per conference) in current playoff positions and the six sides that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences.
These teams will play some seeding games before the playoffs, starting from Thursday. Seeding games are eight matches, selected from a franchise's remaining regular-season outings, which each of the 22 teams will contest before the playoffs.
At the end of the seeding games, the seven sides with the best record will progress to the playoffs. Meanwhile, if the eighth seed is four games or fewer ahead of the ninth seed, those teams would compete in a mini play-in tournament to determine the eighth playoff seed.
The play-in tournament will be a best-of-two series, where the No. 9 seed will have to win two head-to-head matchups to take over the No. 8 spot. The rest of the competition will proceed in the traditional, conference-based format.
The 22 teams involved are permitted to have up to 17 players in Orlando, comprising of 14 or 15 players on a standard NBA contract and additional two-way spots.
WHICH ARE THE TEAMS IN FRAY?
Eastern Conference (9 teams) - Milwaukee Bucks (Q), Toronto Raptors (Q), Boston Celtics (Q), Miami Heat (Q), Indiana Pacers (Q), Philadelphia 76ers (Q), Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards.
Western Conference (13 teams) - Los Angeles Lakers (Q), Los Angeles Clippers (Q), Denver Nuggets (Q), Utah Jazz (Q), Oklahoma City Thunder (Q), Houston Rockets (Q), Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns.
* Q - Qualified for playoffs *
The Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, Heat, Pacers and 76ers from the Eastern Conference and the Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Jazz, Thunder and Rockets from the Western Conference have already made their way to the next round.
Meanwhile, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers from the East and Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors from the West are the eight sides that won't be part of the NBA restart.
Most of the 22 teams will have played 72 or 73 matches after the eight "seeding games" are added to their regular-season total. The Dallas Mavericks would be playing the most total games (75) and the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers would complete the least (71).
WHAT ARE THE VENUES AND HEALTH PROTOCOLS FOR THE NBA RESTART?
The remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season will take place across three venues at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex located inside the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
All the games will be played under the bio-secure "bubble" concept behind closed doors, without fans being allowed into the stadiums.
The families and friends of players will be permitted into the “bubble” only after the playoffs’ first round. They, too, will be headquartered and held to the same precautions as the players and coaching staff. Everyone will undergo coronavirus testing daily, at least initially.
In the case of a single positive during a playoff series, the league would treat that positive test as they would consider an injury. A cluster of players on one team testing positive or several COVID-19 cases across the campus would force the league and health officials to react in real-time.
Of the 302 NBA players tested initially over a month ago, 16 results came back positive. Those players remained in self-isolation until they satisfied all the public health protocols and were cleared by the league's physician.
HOW DOES THE NEW NBA SCHEDULE WORK?
The teams had begun travelling to Orlando from July 7 to 9. Once there, they were involved in intense group training and were scheduled to play three inter-squad scrimmage games until July 28, two days before the official restart of the season.
The season would resume on July 30 and the seeding games will go on till August 14. The Play-In matches are scheduled for August 15 and 16, while the playoffs will begin a day later on August 17. Once a participating team’s season is over, the team’s travel party will depart Orlando after completion of the health and safety protocols applicable to departing teams.
After the conclusion of the first round of playoffs, the Conference Semifinals involving eight teams, four from each conference, will commence on August 31 and end no later than September 13. The remaining four teams will compete in the Conference Finals beginning on September 15 and concluding no later than September 28.
The last two teams standing in the competition will contest the 2020 NBA Finals beginning on September 30. The game 7 of the Finals, if necessary, will take place no later than October 13.
WHERE CAN YOU WATCH THE NBA GAMES LIVE IN INDIA?
Sony Pictures Sports Network holds the television rights for the NBA in India. Sony SIX will telecast the majority of the remaining part of the season, while Sony TEN 1 will also show a few matches on selective days.
On the other hand, Sony LIV will be providing live streaming online for premium Indian subscribers. You can also stream the games by subscribing to the league's very own NBA League Pass, which is available on its official website.
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