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Gary Washburn | On Basketball

NBA close to finalizing plan to restart, but questions abound

The NBA's next stop could be the Magic Kingdom if the league's board of governors approve a plan Thursday to restart the season.Eve Edelheit/NYT

What we do know is the NBA will return in the next eight weeks, with Disney World in Orlando, Fla., as league central for a three-month period to complete what was a thrilling 2019-20 season.

Commissioner Adam Silver met with owners again Friday. The board of governors is expected to vote Thursday on a final plan, knowing that plans need to be made expeditiously on a playoff format and on the number of teams, staff and coaches allowed to go to Orlando. It is expected to pass with the required three-fourths vote of the owners and a definitive plan could be released for all teams Friday.


Numerous members of the board told ESPN that there’s growing support for a plan to bring 22 teams to Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in July.

The format would likely include regular-season and play-in games for playoff berths in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

Most teams played at least 75 percent of their games. The Orlando Magic lead the Washington Wizards by 5½ games for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 17 games left for the Magic and 18 for the Wizards.

In the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies lead three teams by 3½ games — Pelicans, Kings and Trail Blazers — and the Spurs by four games for the eighth playoff spot with each having 16 to 19 games remaining. The NBA wants to give teams with still a fighting chance to reach the postseason the opportunity. And honestly, the league would love to see Zion Williamson, perhaps the NBA’s most touted rookie since LeBron James, face James’s Lakers in the first round.

According to league sources and those involved in discussions, teams will travel to Orlando and stay in the various hotels around campus and will conduct practices at the site’s athletic facilities. A limited number of staff and coaches will attend and extensive safety measures will be taken for players and their families.


Not all owners from those teams who aren’t in the playoff race want their players to return to action for what could be meaningless games.

But another hopeful development occurred Friday when the Celtics announced that individual player workouts will begin at the Auerbach Center on Monday. The NBA’s plan is to allow players to take a few weeks to work themselves back into basketball condition before team practices are allowed.

After a few weeks of practices, teams are expected to fly to Orlando and restart the season. It’s undecided how long before games begin will teams arrive or whether training camps will be conducted in Orlando.

Silver understandably waited several weeks to make any determinations on the season as the coronavirus devastated the country but eventually states began reopening plans. Massachusetts and New York have finally allowed their professional teams to begin training.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr has said publicly he’d rather his Warriors not be forced to return when they have the league’s worst record. The Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard told Yahoo! Sports he would not want to play unless his team has a chance at the postseason.

The sooner the season resumes, the sooner the league can begin planning for 2020-21 because there are a plethora of issues left to be finalized.


When does this return season end? When does the 2020-21 season start? What about free agency? The Celtics’ Jayson Tatum can sign a five-year, $170 million contract extension in the offseason, but when exactly is the offseason? And how much of a window will he have to negotiate?

Silver has tried to throw a perfect game in dealing with the pandemic and he can be trusted for a quality start at least in all of his previous decisions since taking over in 2014.

In a difficult racial and social time in our country, the good news is NBA basketball is coming back and it’s been a much smoother process than baseball.

Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.