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Report: NBA to Approve 22-Team “Return to Play” Proposal

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The NBA is back! (But the Wolves are not)

2020 NBA All-Star - NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Press Conference Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

As you probably know by now, Adrian Wojnarowski announced yesterday that the NBA is indeed coming back, and the terms of the league’s “return to play” proposal will include more than just the 16 teams currently slated to make the playoffs. The NBA’s Board of Governors is slated to meet today, and according to Woj, it is widely expected that the the group will vote unanimously to approve the proposal, thus resuming the 2019-2020 season later this summer in Orlando, Florida.

According to Woj, some of the key points in this new plan include:

  • All 22 teams will return to play at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex starting in July (the target date is July 31).
  • The “return to play” plan will include current playoff teams and any team within 6 games of the final playoff spot.
  • This means that in addition to the teams currently slated to make the playoffs, the Kings, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns, Trail Blazers, and Wizards will also be making their way to the “happiest place on Earth.”
  • The modified season will now include 8 regular-season games and a potential play-in tournament to determine the final playoff field

There’s a lot to digest here, but as pertains specifically to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the irony of the league *technically* expanding the playoffs to include 22 teams and the Wolves still somehow NOT getting an invite is a feat in and of itself worthy of hanging a banner in the rafters.

As Dane points out, if this “return to play” proposal pushes the start of the 2020-2021 season to Christmas Day, that will mean the Wolves will have gone 80% of the year without playing a real, live basketball game. As a sports blog dedicated to covering the team, that alone is unfortunate when it comes to creating content, but from a broader perspective it is an absolute nightmare for the organization to go that long without some true engagement with their (already dwindling) fan base. As Dane went on to mention, the practice facility at Mayo Square has more cameras than a Nikon Convention, so one would hope the team gets innovative and finds ways to broadcast inter-squad scrimmages, workouts, shooting drills, competitions, etc. to keep fans of the team connected.

Again, now would probably be a good time to remind everyone (myself included) that there are FAR bigger issues right now in the country than figuring out how to watch Jarrett Culver work on his free throws. But for an organization that continues to struggle to increase their fan base and has ranked near (or at) the bottom of attendance, this type of extended delay could greatly curtail the momentum the team was beginning to build back in late February/early March.

Taking the Wolves out of the picture for a second (which this new “return to play” proposal ironically does), it does seem (from my perspective) that the league pushing forward to resume their season is a good thing. There will still be a laundry list of safety and health-related concerns that need to be addressed, but Adam Silver and the league have done a good job so far of handling everything related to COVID-19, so one would hope that they have their bases covered when it comes to testing, communication with players, and overall safety for everyone attending the “bubble” in Orlando.

We will continue to monitor any and all news as it pertains to the NBA’s return and how it might affect the Wolves going forward. Until then, please continue to be safe, be well, and hug your loved ones.