What to expect when the NBA returns in late July

The Boston Celtics and rising superstar Jayson Tatum will be one of 22 teams invited to finish the NBA season in Orlando, Florida beginning at the end of July. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Saturday marks the 74th anniversary of the NBA's foundation. 

Since then, there's been four lockouts, two of which (1998-99 and 2011) led to a shortened season. 

But until 2020, nothing had seriously threatened the country's premier professional basketball league from crowing a champion. And fortunately, it appears that streak will remain intact. 

On Thursday, nearly three months after commissioner Adam Silver was forced to hit the pause button on the 2019-2020 campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA Board of Governors approved a plan to resume play beginning on Friday, July 31. 

Here's a quick breakdown of the hopeful proposition:

- Twenty-two teams will go to Disney World in Orlando, FL to finish the season from July 31 through October 12. That includes all 16 current playoff teams (eight from each conference) plus the next six teams with the best records across the league.

- The 22 teams invited to resume play would be the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference and the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trailblazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference. 

- Each team will play eight regular season games to figure out the final seeding before the playoffs start. 

- If a No. 8 seed in either conference is up by four games or more at the end of the regular season, they earn the final playoff spot. If not, a play-in tournament would be held between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds; the No. 8 would only need to win one tourney game, while the No. 9 would need to grab two victories to clinch a postseason spot. 

- Teams will start practicing locally in July before a full training camp in Orlando begins prior to the season resumption. Players will receive daily coronavirus testing and be required to follow social distancing protocols. Team members will be allowed to play golf in the area and eat at outdoor restaurants. 

All seems great, right? Well, at least for fans of the game and the 22 teams that made the cut. The other eight bottom feeders will have to wait until next season -- which by the way is scheduled to begin some time in December of this year -- to make their mark. 

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, teams had completed anywhere between 63 and 67 games out of the 82-game regular season slate. If all things go according to plan, things will look quite a bit different when they resume. 

In addition to the aforementioned regulations, there will almost certainly be no fans in attendance at scheduled games. That means eerily quiet arenas, perhaps taking the players back to their elementary days on the blacktop. According to NBA reporter Shams Charania, the NBA and NBPA is actually considering using crowd noise from the video game NBA 2K to give it a more normal feel.

Add that to the fact that all games will be played in Disney World and all parties involved will stay there for the entirety of their championship quest, and we've got the makings of an unprecedented, real-life fantasy on our hands. 

It only seems right that the NBA would do everything and anything in its power to finish out a season that had so much promise. And as the first of "The Big 4" (NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB) to officially announce a return date and plan, fans and players alike should be thrilled for the return to action -- because truthfully, less than three months ago things looked pretty bleak. 

Nick Giannino can be reached at NGiannino@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickGiannino_SN. 

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