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NBA, Kings are going to Disney World

Sacramento Kings' Kent Bazemore, left, and Buddy Hield celebrate in the closing moments of the Kings' win earlier this season. On Wednesday, the NBA's Board of Governors voted 29-1 to approve a 22-team format for restarting the league season next month at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. The Sacramento Kings are among the 22 teams headed to Orlando.
Associated Press | AP

The NBA is coming back to finish its season and the Sacramento Kings are invited to the party.

On Wednesday, the league’s Board of Governors voted 29-1 to approve a 22-team format for restarting the league season next month at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA 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 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.”

Teams are expected to arrive in Orlando in early July and games are tentatively set to tip off July 31. They will then play out an eight-game schedule. The Disney campus will be the single site for all games and practices as well as housing. Playoffs would then follow in their traditional best-of-seven format with the Finals possibly going as late as Oct. 12.

The 22 teams being invited to finish out the season are the top-eight seeds in both the Eastern and Western conferences as well as six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences.

That includes the Kings (28-36), who are among three teams tied for ninth place in the Western Conference. The Kings, Portland Trail Blazers (29-37) and New Orleans Pelicans (28-36) are all 3.5 games back of the Memphis Grizzlies (32-33) who currently hold the No. 8 seed. The San Antonio Spurs (27-36) and Phoenix Suns (26-39) are also in the mix in the Western Conference.

The Kings were playing well when the season was paused March 12, having gone 13-7 in their last 20 games.

“Our team is a little bit different because we had a lot of injuries throughout the season, and we were starting to hit our stride,” Kings forward Harrison Barnes said on The Full 48 with Howard Beck May 28. “But now we’re healthy, so if the opportunity is there for us to play and make the playoffs, we want that opportunity, we want to see where we’re at. There’s no other simulation we can get for games. This group, where we’re at, we need to play, we need to play together, and playing for something is important.”

The Kings currently own the longest playoff drought in the NBA. The last time Sacramento made the playoffs was in 2006.

In the Eastern Conference, other than the top-eight teams, the Washington Wizards are the only squad to get an invite.

Teams not invited to Orlando include the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves from the Western Conference, and the Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers from the Eastern Conference.

Another aspect of the restart is a postseason play-in scenario when it comes to the eighth seed. After the eight-game schedule plays out, the top-seven teams from each conference will clinch a playoff bid. But, the eighth seed could potentially be settled by a play-in tournament. If the team that finishes in eighth in its conference is more than four games ahead of the No. 9 team, no play-in tournament will be played. But if the No. 8 team is ahead of the No. 9 team by four games or fewer, then the two teams will battle it out in a best of two series in which the No. 9 seed would have to win two straight over the No. 8 team to advance.

As far as the safety protocols, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association will be working with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials to establish strict procedures to mitigate risks related to COVID-19, as well as regular testing.

The NBA is the latest major sports organization to announce its return. NASCAR and Ultimate Fighting Championship having already made their return, IndyCar is firing up its engines this weekend and the PGA Tour is teeing off again next week.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.


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