Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker (1) celebrate after back-to-back three-point baskets and a turnover against the Orlando Magic during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb) (Photo: Darryl Webb, AP)
The Phoenix Suns will continue their 2019-20 season after the NBA Board of Governors approved on Thursday a 22-team format proposal to resume the season in Orlando, Florida, an NBA source confirmed to The Arizona Republic.
The NBA has since announced the approval with July 31 being a tentative target date to re-start the season.
“I’m excited to play,” the Suns’ Aron Baynes during a Zoom media chat about his “open letter” before the team owners finished their vote. “I want to go to battle with these brothers. We’ve been going to battle for the season with them. A chance to come back and get to finish out the season with them and try to put our best foot forward as a healthy unit, that’s something I’m excited to be able to do. I’d be very optimistic that we can go out there and play well and that’s what I want to do.”
Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes (46) reacts after a foul against the Boston Celtics in the first half on Nov. 18, 2019 in Phoenix, Ariz. (Photo: Rob Schumacher/The Republic)
The Suns (26-39) are one of six non-playoff teams selected to resume playing, along with Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Washington. The 22 teams will play eight regular-season games to determine seeding with a potential play-in tournament.
The National Basketball Players Association and NBA are working together to “finalize a comprehensive season restart plan” that involves “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 release said.
There is also the handling the social unrest over the death of George Floyd, but continuing the 2019-20 season is now a reality.
“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a news release.
Three-fourths of league’s Board of Governors — 23 of the 30 owners — had to vote in favor of the proposal for it to be approved by them. The season has been on hold since March 11 after Utah Jazz all-star Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.
“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,” Silver continued. “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.”
Continuing the 2019-20 season is also contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando as a single site for “a campus for all games, practices and housing for the remainder of the season,” the release said.
If the season resumes July 31, the draft lottery will be Aug. 25, the draft will be Oct. 15 and the 2020-21 NBA regular season would likely begin Dec. 1.
The NBA revealed the competition portion of the return format that’ll have the 16 teams (eight per conference) in current playoff positions and the six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences.
Each returning team would play eight seeding games, as selected from its remaining regular-season matchups. At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the best combined records across regular-season games and seeding games would qualify for the playoffs.
If the team with the eighth-best combined record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined record in the same conference, then the team with the eighth-best record would earn the eighth playoff seed.
If the team with the eighth-best combined record in its conference (Team A) is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined record in the same conference (Team B), then Teams A and B would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the eighth playoff seed. To earn the eighth playoff seed, Team A would need to defeat Team B once and Team B would need to defeat Team A two games in a row.
The 2019-20 season would conclude with a traditional playoff format with best-of-seven series in the first round, conference semifinals, conference finals and the NBA Finals.
Phoenix hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2010.
The 14 NBA lottery teams will be the eight teams omitted from the 22-team return format — Atlanta, New York, Golden State, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Minnesota — as well as the six teams in the resumption that don’t make the playoffs.
These teams would be seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through games of March 11. The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.
The games are scheduled to be played at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando. The 220-acre complex has three arenas and several hotels to accommodate the players and their families and limit outside exposure. If things go according to plan the season would conclude with the NBA Finals in October.
When Silver pressed pause on the season in March, Phoenix was six games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference held by Memphis, which owned the tiebreaker against them.
The Suns now have an opportunity to play their way into the postseason. They’re 16-34 against the remaining 21 teams, but will likely be completely healthy for the first time this season.
Several Suns players like Mikal Bridges, Frank Kaminsky III and Jevon Carter have been doing voluntary workouts at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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