In a conference call with the league’s Board of Governors, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver presented multiple return-to-play scenarios and set a target date of July 31 for a return to games, according to people with knowledge of Friday’s call.
No decisions have been made on a format for that return, with the NBA still considering bringing back all 30 teams to finish the season in some form. That plan, according to people with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly, has very little support and is the most unlikely scenario.
“They flat-out don’t want to play,” one executive said of teams with no chance to make the playoffs.
The league also is examining possibilities for 20 teams to return, with competition split into a World Cup-style pool system. The round of pool play would function, essentially, as the first round of the playoffs.
Another possibility is for 22 teams to return, with Washington, Phoenix, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento and San Antonio joining the top 16 teams for regular-season games before a play-in tournament for the final playoff spots.
Sixteen teams — those currently in the playoff picture — could just return to start the postseason, perhaps with the NBA disregarding conference affiliation in its seeding.
The league has polled its general managers, who largely have voted with self-interest as a motivator. Reportedly, 53% of the general managers voted for the return to include only the 16 teams in playoff position.
However, the general managers are under the impression that their opinions are merely that — opinions. League sources believe Silver, with broadcast partners and medical advisors shaping his thinking, ultimately will be the one to make the decision about how the NBA resumes play.
The league has an incentive to deliver as many games as possible to its national and local broadcast partners, driving the return in some ways. The NBA also knows that the more people inside their campus means more tests and more people to monitor.
The league also has considered the time and relative risk required from players on teams that come back, trying to keep bottom teams from training for a month only to have their season end after a handful of unimportant games.
That resumption most likely will occur in Orlando, Fla., by using the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on the Disney World grounds as the NBA’s hub to complete its season.
In addition to the property having multiple courts and the necessary hotel rooms, Disney, the parent company of ESPN and ABC, is one of the NBA’s biggest broadcast partners.