NBA owners voted to restart the regular season for the 22 teams in contention for the play-offs in a near-unanimous vote of the league’s board of governors on Thursday afternoon. In a reported 29-1 vote, the board approved a proposal that calls for each of the 22 teams to play eight regular-season games starting July 31, with the last possible date for game seven of the NBA Finals being October 12. “The board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “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 finalised with public health officials and medical experts. “We also recognise 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.” Chinese basketball to make Covid-19 return on June 20 after months of false dawns The league said the NBA draft lottery will be August 25, and the draft will be held October 15, if all goes according to plan. Free agency will begin October 18, according to multiple reports. Each of the 22 teams – 13 Western Conference teams and nine from the East – will play eight regular-season games for seeding purposes for the play-offs. The 16 teams currently in postseason position are joined by the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference and the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference. The Pelicans (28-36), Kings (28-36) and Trail Blazers (29-37) sit 3.5 games behind the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies (32-33) in the Western Conference. The Spurs (27-36) are four in back of the Grizzlies, while the Suns (26-39) are six back. The Trail Blazers were the only team voting against the proposal on Thursday, per multiple reports. NBA in ‘exploratory’ talks to restart season at Disney in Florida The Wizards (24-40) reside six games behind the seventh-place Brooklyn Nets (30-34) and 5.5 behind the eighth-place Orlando Magic (30-35). Per the league, if the ninth seed is more than four games behind the eighth seed after the eight regular-season games, the eighth seed would earn the play-off spot; if the ninth seed is four or fewer games behind, then the eighth and ninth seed would enter a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth. The Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Nets and Magic currently occupy play-off spots in the Eastern Conference. The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers join the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Grizzlies in residing in play-off position in the Western Conference. Multiple outlets reported teams will have all players report June 21, with coronavirus testing beginning the next day. Then training camps will start June 30, before travel to Orlando on July 7. Eight teams saw their seasons end with the Thursday announcement: the Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors. The Last Dance – perfect nostalgia for coronavirus times Bulls executive vice-president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said in a statement, “To be included in the plan to restart the 2019-20 season would have been a positive for our players and their development, but we understand the need to compromise and we support the decision made today by the NBA board of governors. “We are disappointed that our season is over and there won’t be opportunities to see our team or players in game action, but we will be creative in discovering new opportunities to support their growth as we prepare for the next season.” As for the 2020-21 season, the league said the tentative plan is to start December 1, after beginning training camps on November 10, though dates are flexible. The NBA season was placed on hiatus on March 11 after Jazz centre Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.