As a return to basketball grows ever closer, the NBA is now beginning to hone in on a potential format for its concluded season. As momentum for getting all 30 teams to Disney for a truncated regular season fades, a few alternatives are beginning to emerge, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne. Those options include a “playoffs-plus” format that brings all 16 current postseason teams along with the four Western Conference bubble teams (Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs), a slightly expanded version with 24 teams, and a based on the World Cup.
The NBA‘s push to get those West teams to Orlando is based on the wide-open nature of that race. The No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, Orlando, leads the No. 9 seed, Washington, by 5.5 games in the standings. The No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies, meanwhile, hold a 3.5-game lead in the Western Conference, but had the NBA’s hardest remaining schedule before the shutdown. Most analytical models favored the Pelicans, with the NBA’s easiest remaining schedule. With five teams seemingly in the hunt for that final spot, the NBA would likely face an uproar if it simply locked the standings in their current position and brought only 16 teams.
Another important consideration is the presence of players’ families at Disney. According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, the NBA and union are discussing a compromise allowing limited family members to come to Orlando once teams have been eliminated and more hotel rooms open up. This would allow the NBA to maintain a somewhat consistent number of total people within its bubble. As losing players and teams leave, they would be replaced by incoming family members.
While no resolution is expected this week, a timeline is beginning to take shape, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. In-market training camps would take place in July before scrimmages would move to Orlando. The beginning of play would come in either late July or early August. Players and coaches who were staying outside of the United States are now allowed to return, according to Charania.
Players still have concerns about some specifics involving a return to play. According to Charania, those include their accommodations at Disney World and nasal swab testing, which many have claimed is quite painful.
Those are just some of the many details that need to be worked out, but with each passing day, the league and union seem to make progress and agreeing to restart the season. Nothing is imminent, but basketball is closer to coming back than ever.