NBA Season Expected to Return in Late July; Disney World to Host Play-In Tourney

Knicks vs Wizards_NBA - Getty - H 2020
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League insiders report that the top 22 teams when the season was suspended in March will take part.

The National Basketball Association's board of governors is expected on Thursday to approve the league's plan for a 22-team return-to-play in order to conclude the 2019-20 season, according to NBA insiders. 

The league previously confirmed it was in the midst of talks with The Walt Disney Co. for a plan to conclude the season at its sprawling Orlando park, but no specifics were released at the time. 

The NBA suspended its season in early March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. At that point, the Los Angeles Lakers were atop the Western Conference and the Milwaukee Bucks were atop the Eastern Conference. 

Now, it appears the season will pick up July 31, with games being held at Walt Disney World's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. The top 22 teams when the season was suspended will play eight regular season games for playoff seeding purposes, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports. 

"So, the NBA's inviting 22 teams to Orlando: 13 Western Conference, nine Eastern Conference. Eight-regular season games per team. Play-in for the 8th seeds. July 31-October 12. Vote tomorrow to ratify. The NBA's back," Wojnarowski reported via social media Wednesday morning. 

Before the pause button was pushed on the season, it was determined games would be played without fans present for health and safety reasons. It is assumed that will still be the case when the season resumes. More details are expected after the Thursday vote. 

The news comes a week after The Walt Disney Co. announced its plans to fully reopen Disney World, which has been shuttered since mid-March. The resort is set for a phased reopening, with the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opening July 11. Epcot and Hollywood Studios will reopen July 15. Strict new measures, such as mandatory face coverings and temperature checks, are in place as are social distancing measures.

Not long after the reopening announcement, Disney CEO Bob Chapek told CNBC he was confident that a plan could be hammered out between the company and the NBA to finish the season. 

Neither Disney nor the NBA could immediately be reached for comment.