The N.B.A. will formally present a return-to-play plan to owners on Thursday that calls for 22 of its 30 teams to resume the 2019-20 season at Walt Disney World in Orlando in late July, according to several people familiar with the league’s intentions.
The structure requires the voting support of at least 23 owners, but is expected to be approved comfortably during a conference call scheduled for Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the details of the plan.
The N.B.A. moved toward a 22-team format last week, featuring the 16 teams that were in Eastern and Western Conference playoff positions along with six teams within six games of a playoff spot as of March 11, when the league abruptly suspended play in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Of the six teams that will be invited to Orlando that were outside of the top eight in their respective conferences, five are from the West: Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix. Washington is the only East team that was within six games of a playoff spot when the season was suspended.
There would be 88 regular-season games in Orlando under this plan — eight for each of the 22 teams — all played with no fans in attendance. ESPN reported Wednesday that the N.B.A. will add a brief play-in round for the East and West if the No. 9 seed in each conference finishes four or fewer games behind the No. 8 seed after the 88 games are completed. Such a play-in round would require the ninth seed in each conference to beat the eighth seed twice to wrest the final playoff spot away.
ESPN reported Tuesday that the tentative dates for the rest of the season, through the last likely date for a Game 7 in the N.B.A. finals, would be July 31 through Oct. 12.
Many questions remain, however, about the safety protocols that the N.B.A. would use in what it has labeled a “campus” environment. Specifics about the league’s testing program, how it plans to handle players or team staff members who test positive for Covid-19 and how strictly movement will be monitored into and out of the two Disney World hotels expected to house the 22 teams are among the many details that are being negotiated between the N.B.A. and the National Basketball Players Association but have not yet been revealed.
The N.B.A. gradually moved away from the idea of bringing all 30 teams to Orlando because of safety concerns. It settled on 22 teams — rather than just the 16 teams in playoff positions as of March 11 — in part to play enough regular-season games to help some teams meet their contractual obligations with regional television networks, which would help mitigate significant losses of revenue.
Teams are still awaiting guidance from the league on how the schedule would be made for each club’s eight regular-season games — with complaints almost guaranteed since there is no way to make schedules balanced.
A firm date for teams to report to Orlando has also not yet been chosen, but it is expected that teams would be allowed to gradually ramp up training in their own practice facilities before heading to Disney World, which features multiple arenas as part of the 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
The New York Times reported last month that teams have been advised that, to limit traveling parties to the most essential staff members, they will likely be allowed to bring roughly 35 people to Orlando — including players. Teams routinely had traveling parties that exceeded 50 people before the coronavirus outbreak.
If the N.B.A. can successfully complete the 2019-20 season under this structure, it is expected that the 2020 N.B.A. draft would be moved to October, with free agency to follow shortly thereafter and a tentative plan to establish Dec. 25 as opening day for the 2020-21 season.