The NBA Board of Governors has approved a competitive format to restart the 2019-20 season with 22 teams returning to play in one location and with a tentative start date of Friday, July 31. 

The NBA said in a statement that it is working to finalize a comprehensive season restart plan with the National Basketball Players Association. Both the NBA and the NBPA are liaising with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials to establish a rigorous program to prevent and mitigate the risk related to COVID-19, including a regular testing protocol and stringent safety practices.  

The season restart is also contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, as a single site for a campus for all games, practices and housing for the remainder of the season.

Based on the competitive format approved by the NBA Board of Governors, the 22 returning teams would be the 16 teams (eight per conference) in current playoff positions plus the six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences. Those two groups comprise teams with the NBA’s 22 best records.   

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “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.  

“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.”

While the NBA announcement has prompted a wave of excitement among fans and stakeholders, Silver remains cautious. “We’re in the equivalent of the first inning,” he said during an appearance on a special edition of TNT’s Inside The NBA.

He added: “We’ve always been looking for a very appropriate and safe way we can resume playing basketball,” Silver said, “knowing we will be living with this virus for a while. … We’re exploring with the players whether there can be a ‘new normal’ here.”