The National Basketball Association has approved to restart the 2019-20 season as a 22-team format with a “tentative” start date of July 31.
The NBA board of governors released a statement on Thursday following a meeting in New York, with the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando set to be used as a single site to house all 22 teams, including practice sessions and matches.
Teams currently in the eight play-off places in both the Eastern and Western Conferences will return alongside the six sides which are six games or fewer from the eighth-seeded franchises.
“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
“While the Covid-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalised with public health officials and medical experts.
“We also recognise that as we prepare to resume play, our society is reeling from recent tragedies of racial violence and injustice, and we will continue to work closely with our teams and players to use our collective resources and influence to address these issues in very real and concrete ways.”
The Washington Wizards are the only team outside the Eastern Conference play-offs to return, with the Portland Trail Blazers, the New Orleans Pelicans, the Sacramento Kings, the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference completing the 22-team shortlist.
Each of the returning teams will play eight “seeding games” and this will be combined with the regular-season results to complete the 16-team play-offs.
If the team with the eighth-best combined record finish four or fewer games ahead of ninth in their respective conference, the two teams will compete in a “play-in” tournament for the last play-off spot.
The higher-ranked side will need only one win to secure their place in the first round of the post-season, while the ninth-placed franchise need successive victories to seal their berth.
The play-offs will continue in the traditional conference-based format with four rounds and a best-of-seven series, with the finals slated to finish no later than October 12.
The NBA also announced plans for the 2020 NBA draft lottery to commence on August 25, with the eight teams not returning and the six sides who failed to make the play-offs being seeded based on their results up to March 11.
The NBA draft has been scheduled to take place on October 15, while the 2020-21 season is set to start on December 1.