The NBA is planning a Thursday vote of the league’s Board of Governors — with owners expected to approve commissioner Adam Silver’s recommendation on a format to restart the season in Orlando, Florida, sources tell ESPN.
The NBA has been examining several plans on a return-to-play, but numerous members of the Board of Governors tell ESPN that there’s growing support for a plan to bring 22 teams to Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in July.
This format would likely include regular-season and play-in games to compete for playoff berths in both the Eastern and Western Conferences, sources said.
The NBA needs a three-fourths majority of owners to approve a return-to-play plan and an overwhelming majority of owners expressed a desire to do precisely that on both a Board of Governors call on Friday and later in interviews with ESPN.
“We are lining up behind him on this,” one owner told ESPN on Friday. “The posturing will end. Nothing is going to be perfect for everyone.”
The NBA has yet to endorse a plan, and only one of the four ideas presented on Friday’s Board of Governors call is no longer believed to be a legitimate consideration — bringing back all 30 teams, sources said.
The 22-team plan would include teams that are currently within six games of the final playoff spots in each conference, sources said.
New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio would land in Orlando under those guidelines, with Washington joining as the only team within six games of the eighth-seed in the Eastern Conference.
A proposal for 20 teams remains alive, and that would include only New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio and Sacramento in that format, sources said.
Discussions have centered on these formats including several regular-season games and a play-in tournament to decide the playoff participants.
Regardless of how many teams are ultimately included in the playoffs, the NBPA has consistently stressed that it wants several regular-season games played prior to the start of the playoffs, sources said. That has been a prevailing sentiment among several contending teams who prefer a tune-up before entering into the postseason, sources said.
The NBA and NBPA are also mindful of generating revenue on the resumption of a season, and regular season and play-in games at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports will generate increased money — as opposed to only restarting the season with the playoffs. ESPN is owned by the Walt Disney Company.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe contributed to this story.
NBA details options for players traveling to Florida apart from teams
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — As NBA teams prepare to leave for Orlando, Florida, in the coming days, organizations have received directives on the process for transporting players unable to travel on the team charters, according to a league memo acquired by ESPN.
If a player misses a scheduled coronavirus test in the two days prior to the team’s departure date — or has “extenuating circumstances” that have been disclosed to the league — he must arrange his own travel to join his team as the league restarts its season. The player has the option of flying on a charter flight at the player’s expense, traveling by car, or flying commercial, the memo said. If a player flies privately or drives, he will have to have two negative test results before resuming basketball activities. If he flies commercially, the player must have three consecutive negative test results, according to the memo.
With the first teams scheduled to arrive in Orlando on Tuesday, it is unlikely that players who have tested positive in the past week will be able to fly with their teams. According to the league’s health and safety guidelines, any player who has contracted COVID-19 must quarantine and test negative twice before being medically cleared to make the trip. Or, if he misses a test in the two days prior to the team’s flight, he will have to return three consecutive negative tests before traveling.
The training camps at Walt Disney World Resort will be the first time that most players will play sanctioned 5-on-5 basketball with their teammates since the league shut down on March 11 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Players who have to stay back in their home markets to recover from COVID-19 could miss part of their team’s scheduled training camps and that vital preparation time. Having less time to prepare could leave players more susceptible to injury.
The 22 teams participating in the restart are scheduled to arrive in Orlando in staggered phases. The first group of teams is scheduled to enter the “bubble” on Tuesday, the second on Wednesday and third on Thursday. After completing a two-day quarantine, the first group is expected to start training camps on Thursday.
Ahead of the regular-season games that are slated to begin on July 30, each team is also playing three scrimmages against teams from the other conference or one that is in the same conference and an unlikely first-round playoff opponent.
If a player has not been getting tested regularly over the past several weeks, fulfilling the NBA’s requirements, he is required to have six consecutive negative test results upon arrival before participating.
Serge Ibaka — ‘Locked in’ Raptors ready for NBA restart
“I saw just how everyone is in great shape,” Ibaka said on a conference call with reporters Saturday afternoon. “They came here in great shape, and as soon as we got here everyone was starting to put in work.
“I’ve been in the league for 11 years. You can see when people’s locked in and they are ready mentally, and when they are not.
“So I can tell you right now, mentally, everybody is ready. Everybody is ready.”
Ibaka and the Raptors were the one team that was allowed to travel to Florida early, due to complications with trying to have players return to Canada from the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Raptors, who are working out at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, still can only shoot individually at their own basket (like players on all teams) until after they enter the Disney World bubble and quarantine there.
Still, Ibaka said that it felt good to be able to get shots up after spending so much time away from the gym.
“It’s better than nothing,” he said with a smile. “It’s helpful. And, also, like I said just seeing the guys around I think is good, too.”
As for the rising case count in Florida, Ibaka said that it was something he’s worried about — in part because his daughter lives in Orlando. He said she and those around her are feeling good, however, and that he hopes everyone takes precautions upon entering the bubble.
“Honestly it’s really concerning,” he said. “Hopefully everybody has to follow the rules, every player, when we get in the bubble in Orlando, we can respect all the notes that they’re going to give us. But I have my daughter who lives here in Orlando, and it’s kind of scary a little bit. It’s something where you have to make sure you look at it.”
It’s been a strange season, to say the least, for the defending NBA champions. Toronto had barely finished celebrating last season’s title when Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green left in free agency. Then the Raptors went to Japan in the preseason, and entered the regular season with little expectations due to Leonard’s departure.
But Toronto then proceeded to become one of the NBA’s best teams, and was the Eastern Conference’s second seed, on pace to win 59 games, when the season was suspended on March 11 — all while every member of the team’s core rotation (except for OG Anunoby) had missed at least a month during the regular season due to injury.
“It’s been a little bit weird [this season] with everything that’s going on,” Ibaka said of Toronto’s attempt to defend its title. “But one thing we know is that it’s over. Whatever happened last season is over, and we’ve got to try to put our mindset so that it’s ready to go for this one.
“We know it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be a challenge, and everyone is going to come for us because we are the champs, so we have to be ready.”
Ibaka, who spent most of his career as a power forward, has fully shifted to center the past two seasons with Toronto, forming an effective 1-2 punch first with Jonas Valanciunas, and then with former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol.
After all of the injuries Toronto has suffered this season — including multiple hamstring issues for Gasol, who only played in 36 of the Raptors’ 64 games before the season was stopped — Ibaka said he’s very excited to see what the Raptors are capable of doing now that they have their full assortment of players ready to go.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a little weird in the beginning to have everybody at the same time, but I think it’s a good thing because we need that. I can’t really wait to see how it’s going to work out for us having everybody back.”
And how high does he think Toronto’s ceiling can be with everyone healthy?
“Everything,” he said. “We believe in us. We have the experience. We have the championship mentality already. We have confidence.
“But now it’s time to go. Time to go to work, and, like I said, we’re ready.”
Week of NBA scrimmages kicks off with Magic-Clippers
The NBA announced the schedule Saturday for scrimmages at the Walt Disney World Resort, with 33 games set for between July 22 and July 28.
Each of the 22 teams that will be part of the season restart has been scheduled for three games. The Orlando Magic and LA Clippers will play in the first game on July 22. Wizards–Nuggets, Pelicans–Nets and Spurs–Heat are also set for the first day.
The NBA Season Restart Scrimmage Schedule!
— NBA (@NBA) July 4, 2020
Teams were set to scrimmage against a team in the opposite conference or an unlikely first-round playoff opponent in same conference, the NBA told teams in a memo obtained by ESPN.
All three arenas at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex that will be used for the restart will also play host to the scrimmages.
There will be between three and six games per day during that six-day span. The season will officially resume with the start of seeding games on July 30.
Teams begin arriving at Disney for a brief quarantine followed by the start of their training camps on Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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