The NBA was one of the first major sports organizations to suspend play in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, pausing its 2019-20 season on March 11. Now, four months later, basketball makes its triumphant return. The NBA resumes its season on July 30 with a double-header, before kicking off two weeks of intense action before segueing into the NBA Playoffs. Barring any COVID-19 outbreaks, the season should wrap itself up right in time for Halloween. For those of you who have been desperately missing sports, here’s how to watch, who’s playing, and who’s the favorite to take home the championship trophy.
The NBA returns on Thursday, July 30, at 6:30 PM ET. The Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans have the honor of playing the first official NBA game since COVID-19 interrupted the 2019-20 season. After them, the battle of Los Angeles will take place. LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers will battle Kawhi Leonard and the LA Clippers. The Lakers are five games ahead of the Clippers in the Western Conference, and with so few games remaining, every win counts. From there, the action is practically nonstop, with games being played every single day for the next two weeks.
Usually, an NBA season is 82-games long. This year, most of the 22 teams will play 72 or 73 games after the eight “seeding games’ are added to their regular-season total, per NBA.com.
All games will be at Disney World. There’s no home-court advantage and no fans for these games. The NBA and Disney have worked out a deal where all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. The players are currently sequestered in “bubbles” at the Walt Disney resort, isolated from the world to avoid contracting/spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The games will be on TNT, ABC, and ESPN. The July 30 restart will be on TNT. From there, the rest of the games will be broadcasted over ABC, TNT, and ESPN. Fans with cable/satellite packages can watch online at the network’s respective streaming portals. For those cord-cutters, most Live TV streaming services carry those networks (but double-check, first.)
Yes, only 22 teams are involved. With so little time left, the NBA made a tough decision and decided that only 22 out of the 30 teams will be allowed to finish the season. Nine squads from the Eastern Conference — Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards – will join thirteen from the Western Conference – Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns – for the final weeks of play.
The playoffs start in August. The ‘regular season’ ends on August 14, with the first round of the playoffs set for August 17. The top seven teams in each conference will clinch a playoff spot. The eighth seed could come down to a play-in tournament. If a team with the eight-best record in a conference is more than four games ahead of the ninth-best, then no play-in is quired. However, if the eighth and ninth-best teams are fewer than four games apart, they’ll play head-to-head for a spot in the tournament.
The playoffs will be the usual length. The NBA Playoffs will be the usual 16-team, best-of-seven setup. They should wrap up no later than October 13.
Who’s the favorite to win? The Lakers are the favorites to win, per Forbes, but they’re not that far ahead of the Clippers. The Milwaukee Bucks are the favorites to win the East. But, it’s an unusual year – to say the least – so an underdog could dethrone the favorites to take home the trophy. The only way to find out is to watch.