The National Basketball Association (NBA) board of governors has approved a competitive format to restart the 2019-20 season at the end of July.

The board’s approval is the first formal step towards resuming the season, with 22 teams returning to play from a tentative start date of Friday 31 July.

The NBA is finalizing a comprehensive season restart plan with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), working with 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 season restart is also contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, as a single site for all games, practices and housing for the remainder of the season.

The 22 returning teams will be 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.

“The board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “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.

“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.”

The 2019-20 season will conclude with a traditional playoff format with best-of-seven series in the first round, conference semifinals, conference finals and the NBA Finals.

If the season resumes on 31 July, the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery will be rescheduled for 25 August. The 2020 NBA Draft will be held on 15 October, and the 2020-21 NBA regular season will likely begin on 1 December.

The 22 returning teams for the season restart are: 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, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference.

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