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#BBNBA: The NBA’s return is imminent, so here’s an explanation as to how it’ll happen

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Minus the league’s eight-worst teams, the NBA will restart the 2019-20 season and will finish the campaign in Florida with some former Kentucky players’ involvement.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Los Angeles Lakers
Former Kentucky great Anthony Davis’ quest for his first NBA title will continue at the end of July with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

When the National Basketball Association returns to your televisions on July 31, it will mark 142 days since the COVID-19 virus brought the world’s best basketball league (and the country itself) to an abrupt halt, but professional basketball in the United States is returning.

The NBA’s board of governors approved a plan of a 22-team format to continue to the 2019-20 season at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex with a 29-1 vote of approval. (The Portland Trail Blazers were the lone nay vote in the process.)

The next day, the NBA Players Association unanimously approved the format’s structure.

Disney’s Florida location spans over 200 acres with a list of hotels for personnel stay nearby, along with three different arenas that can host games seemingly on a daily basis from July 31 to October 12.

It’s still a concerning situation with the NBA returning in a state that 1) didn’t really quite shut down fully during this current coronavirus pandemic and 2) just had a recent spike of positive virus cases, but the NBA will commit to a set of safety measures to keep the players, coaches and personnel that will be allowed on the complex safe.

There will be some added measures to preserve the safety of NBA personnel at Disney, including four hours between games on each individual court to accommodate overtimes, cleanings and warm-ups.

But, having said all that, how will the conclusion of the NBA season take place? Who won’t be playing? How will the playoffs work? Which Kentucky players will have a shot at a ring?

Well, that’s what we’re here to answer.

22 teams? What about the other eight?

Great question.

Here’s the eight teams that will NOT be going to Disney World to compete for a title: the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks.

There’s been talks of at least seven of the eight teams trying to find some way to keep their players active despite not being invited to finish the season in Orlando.

Those eight teams were established to be too far out of contention and to limit the amount and potential spread of any virus cases with people at Disney’s complex, it was approved that those eight teams not make the trip.

Who all got invited?

22 teams got invited to finish the season: 13 are from the Western Conference and the other nine are from the Eastern Conference.

Basically, you needed at least 16 teams for the postseason and six potential playoff contenders that are within at least six games of their conference’s final playoff spot (the No. 8 seed). Believe it or not, Charlotte Hornets owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan was vocal in keeping the standard format of the playoffs.

To give those contenders a chance, following a short training period in Orlando from July 9-11 to help players get back in to game shape again, the 22 teams will also have eight regular season games to play before the playoffs start.

The Western Conference’s 13 teams: Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Eastern Conference’s nine teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and the Washington Wizards.

Before you ask your next question, there’s something you need to know about the teams that are technically in the playoffs right now

OK, so, you know how I mentioned there’s 22 teams invited, but only 16 make the postseason, right?

Well, there’s an important bullet point in this altered structure this season.

The No. 9 seed in either conference can still make the playoffs, even if they don’t officially qualify due to an added caveat.

Well, hold on here. How does that work?

If the team seeded ninth at season’s end is less than four games back of the eighth and final playoff spot in their conference, a “play-in tournament” will be initiated between the No. 8 and 9 seeds in their specific conference. Remember, they’re playing eight regular season games before the playoffs start in Florida, which means 78 games in total for the season and not a usual full 82-game slate, hence the four-game buffer zone.

For example, the Grizzlies (32-33) held a 3.5-game advantage over the Trail Blazers (29-37) for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference when the league shut down.

If the Blazers (or somebody else) finish as the No. 9 seed are four games or less back of the Grizzlies (or somebody else), then a situation will be played out to where if the No. 9 seed beats the No. 8 seed in two straight games, the No. 9 seed becomes the No. 8 seed and makes the postseason.

In that same scenario, if the No. 8 seed beats the No. 9 seed just once, the No. 9 seed will be officially eliminated and the No. 8 seed will qualify for the postseason.

(Also, if a team is scheduled to be playing one of the eight teams that wasn’t invited to Orlando on their regular season schedule, they’ll move to the next game on their schedule involves a team at the complex.)

OK, I think I’m with you here. Which Kentucky players will play at Disney so I can keep track of them?

I’m glad you asked that.

Here’s a full list of the 22 teams and the names of Kentucky players that are on each team at Disney, starting with the East:

  • Milwaukee Bucks — Eric Bledsoe
  • Toronto Raptors — None
  • Boston Celtics — Enes Kanter
  • Miami Heat — Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro
  • Indiana Pacers — None
  • Philadelphia 76ers — None
  • Brooklyn Nets — None
  • Orlando Magic — None

Washington Wizards — John Wall (will not be active)

Here’s the Kentucky players in the West:

  • Los Angeles Lakers — Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo
  • Los Angeles Clippers — Patrick Patterson
  • Denver Nuggets — Jamal Murray
  • Utah Jazz — None
  • Oklahoma City Thunder — Hamidou Diallo, Nerlens Noel and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
  • Houston Rockets — None
  • Dallas Mavericks — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Willie Cauley-Stein
  • Memphis Grizzlies — None
  • Portland Trail Blazers — Wenyen Gabriel
  • New Orleans Pelicans — Darius Miller (technically, but tore his Achilles last August)
  • Sacramento Kings — De’Aaron Fox
  • San Antonio Spurs — Trey Lyles, Keldon Johnson
  • Phoenix Suns — Devin Booker

But, wait a second. What about other things like the draft lottery and stuff?

Fantastic question. You almost forget stuff like that.

Here’s info on those particulars via Woj:

The league also offered dates beyond the July 31-Oct. 12 season window, with the draft lottery set on Aug. 25, the NBA draft on Oct. 15 and the 2020-21 season likely beginning Dec. 1. Sources told ESPN that free agency could begin Oct. 18, with training camps starting Nov. 10, though teams were told to consider the free-agency date as flexible.

The flexibility of those dates has already come into play for discussions, too.