NBA, union cement July 30 restart plan for Orlando


New York (AFP)

The NBA and its players union announced they have struck a deal on a restart plan for the 2019-20 season starting July 30, including health and safety protocols.

The deal between the league and the National Basketball Players Association will feature all games played at the Walt Disney World Resort campus in Orlando, Florida, where players will reside in a "bubble" quarantine environment to safeguard them from COVID-19.

"It's very exciting to officially announce the restart of the 2019-2020 season," NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the NBA to shut down the campaign March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for the deadly virus.

In all, 22 teams will compete in Orlando, each with a chance to capture the NBA title in October.

The league and players also agreed to take united action to combat systemic racism and promote social justice, easing some player fears the restart might distract from the rising social movement in the wake of the death of unarmed black man George Floyd while in police custody last month.

"We have worked together with the players association to establish a restart plan that prioritizes health and safety, preserves competitive fairness and provides a platform to address social justice issues," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.

Health and safety protocols were created in consultation with public health experts, infectious disease specialists and government officials.

The announcement came on the same day the Florida Department of Health said a one-day record 8,942 people tested positive Thursday for coronavirus, smashing the two-day-old mark of 5,508 as the deadly virus spikes in the same area where NBA players are planning to complete the campaign.

"It has taken true collaboration between the league and the union... along with the continued support and assistance from medical experts, public health officials and many others," Roberts said.

The top eight teams in the Eastern and Western conferences and the six teams within six games of the eighth spot in either conference were chosen to compete in Orlando.

Each club starts with eight "seeding" games to complete a regular season, with a schedule set to be announced later Friday.

The seven teams with the top overall season win percentages after the seeding games will take the top seven seeds in each conference for the NBA playoffs.

If the eighth-placed team in either conference leads the number nine club by more than four games in the overall standings, it will become the eighth seed in that conference.

If the gap is four games or fewer, there, those two clubs would meet in a one-game play-in matchup to decide the eighth spot.

The ninth place team would be eliminated with one loss while two defeats would be needed for the number eight squad to be ousted.

That would set the field for a typical playoff run of four best-of-seven rounds, concluding the NBA Finals ending no later than October 13.