NBA returning

The NBA is officially coming back next month, even in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. The National Basketball Association came to an abrupt halt when companies and local governments around the United States began taking the virus seriously, and today, the league’s Board of Governors voted to resume the season in late July with a slightly tweaked format for teams to get into the playoffs. Making this even more surreal, teams will both live and compete at Walt Disney World for the entire rest of the season.

The NBA’s biggest stars will be living and playing the rest of this interrupted season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. The point of this is so contact with outsiders is extremely limited – fans will not be allowed to attend the games in person. But as John Oliver pointed out in a recent episode of Last Week Tonight, making sure every member of a sports team’s staff (let alone every staff member of all 22 teams) follows the rules of quarantine is more difficult than it seems on paper.

“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 finalized with public health officials and medical experts,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “We also recognize 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.”

According to NBA.com, 22 of the league’s 30 teams will return to play the remainder of the 2019-2020 season: the 16 teams (eight per conference) in current playoff positions, and the six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences. When the season resumes, teams will play “seeding games” to determine their position and eligibility for the playoffs – and this year, a new tweak has been added to the proceedings. The top seven teams in each conference will automatically secure their position in the playoffs. But if the eighth seed in each conference does not have a four-game lead over the ninth seed, the eighth and ninth seeds will play a “play-in” series to determine who earns that final playoff slot. The eighth seed needs to beat the ninth seed just one time to get in, but the ninth seed will have to beat the eighth two times in a row to get in.

At least ten NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus, and there are still many questions about what protocols the league is going to put in place to ensure the safety of the players. The Washington Post says the NBA Players Association is set to meet tomorrow to discuss the framework for returning to play. But to be frank, if you want more details on how this all shakes out, you’ll probably need to find them elsewhere. We don’t plan to turn /Film into a sports site, but this particular development – teams living and playing at Disney World! – is so strange, we had to cover it.

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