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NBA owners approve tentative July 31 restart to season with just 22 teams playing

All games of the virus-shortened seasoned would be played near Orlando, Florida, according to the plan.
NBA Suspends Season After Player Tests Positive For Coronavirus
The NBA store in New York City.Jeenah Moon / Getty Images file

The NBA on Thursday approved plans to restart the season with abbreviated competition of just 22 teams — tentatively set to begin July 31 with all games played near Orlando, Florida.

The league's Board of Governors voted in favor the restart format that would have all action played at Walt Disney World Resort, an NBA statement said.

The last pro basketball games were played on March 11, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the NBA and practically all other sports around the globe.

“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 on Thursday.

“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."

The plan calls for the top 22 teams of the 30 teams to play eight games to finish off their regular season.

Those teams would be: the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns.

The NBA clubs could arrive to their new, neutral home around July 7 for training camp and exhibition games.

Then, like a normal season, the top eight teams of the Eastern and Western Conferences would qualify for the playoffs. But this restarted 2019-20 season would have a twist.

If a conference's No. 9 team is within four games of the No. 8, they'd face off to get into the conference quarterfinals. The No. 9 team would have to go 2-0 in a two-game series vs. No. 8 to get that last playoff spot in the conference.

The plan will now be sent to the National Basketball Players Association, which must ratify it to resume play —with hopes of crowning a 2019-20 champion in October.

The NBA also said it's planning to hold a lottery on Aug. 25 to determine the order for its annual draft of top high school, college and international talent. That draft would be on Oct. 15, with hopes of starting the 2020-21 season on Dec. 1.

Thursday’s vote ends the season for the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets.

The downtrodden Knicks have now missed postseason play for seven consecutive seasons, the third-longest active streak of futility, topped only by the Kings and Suns.

Associated Press contributed.