Home NBA The NBA is coming back: Dates, locations and how to watch basketball's 2020 return – CNET

The NBA is coming back: Dates, locations and how to watch basketball's 2020 return – CNET

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The NBA and stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James (23) are set to return to play as soon as July 30. 

Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After the coronavirus shut down the NBA season along with everything else, basketball is finally set to return on July 30 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, inside Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Negotiations between the league and the NBA Players Association resulted in a new deal that will allow play to resume after a hiatus of nearly five months, but the final pro basketball games of 2020 will be unlike any previous year. The best 22 of the league’s 30 teams will play eight games to finish the regular season. From these, the top 7 teams in each conference will advance, with the final eighth seed in each conference being determined by a potential play-in tournament before the traditional 16-team playoffs. Even though the Walt Disney World theme park itself plans to open July 11, social distancing requirements means that fans will not be in attendance for any of the NBA games.

There is still a lot to be sorted before tip-off, but here’s everything we know so far about the NBA’s eagerly awaited return. 

When does the season resume? 

The NBA is set to resume play on July 30 with a doubleheader on TNT featuring the Jazz and Pelicans at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by the Clippers versus the Lakers at 9 p.m. ET. 

Each of the invited teams will play eight regular-season games to both figure out seeding and get ready for the playoffs. The exact schedule for each of the teams can be found on NBA.com

Teams are expected to arrive in Florida on either July 7, 8 or 9 according to NBA.com. The seeding games will end on Aug. 14, with any play in games taking place on Aug. 15 and 16. 

When do the playoffs start? 

The playoffs will begin on Aug. 17. Game 7 of the NBA Finals will take place, if necessary, no later than Oct. 13. 

Which teams are in? 

The 22 teams invited to Orlando for the restart includes the 16 teams that would currently qualify for the playoffs plus six teams that are six games or fewer from the eighth and final playoff seed in their respective conferences. 

Eastern Conference

  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Boston Celtics
  • Miami Heat
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Orlando Magic
  • Washington Wizards

Western Conference

  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Los Angeles 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
  • Phoenix Suns

The other remaining eight teams are all done for the year and can begin prepping for the offseason and NBA Draft. Better luck next year, Knicks fans. 

How does the play-in tournament work?

Here’s how this would all go down, according to an FAQ posted on NBA.com:

“if the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, no play-in tournament would be necessary. The final playoff berth would simply go to the team with the eighth-best record (regular-season games plus seeding games)” in that respective conference. 

But, the site continues, “if the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, then we’ll have a battle for the final spot between those two teams.

The tournament would basically be a best-of-two series — where the No. 9 seed would have to win two head-to-head matchups to take over the No. 8 spot.” 

Where will the games be held? 


Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex will be the home of the NBA action. 


The NBA is using three different venues on the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus: The HP Field House, Visa Athletic Center and a site Disney calls “The Arena.”

The HP Field House has been previously used to host an NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament called the Orlando Invitational. Its next tournament — featuring the likes of Auburn, Michigan State and Gonzaga — is currently set to run Thanksgiving weekend.

Where will the players stay? What will they do when not playing? 

The players, team staff and their personnel and families will be divided across three different Disney properties: Grand Destino, Grand Floridian and Yacht Club. 

The hotels are being sorted by team standings with top seeds like the Bucks, Lakers, Raptors and Clippers staying at the Grand Destino, which opened last year. Teams that are on the playoff bubble — like the Blazers, Kings and Pelicans — are staying at Disney’s Yacht Club. 

As Stadium and The Athletic’s Shams Charania notes, when not playing players will be able to attend other games, go to movie screenings and play video games, plus take advantage of pools, trails, barbers, manicurists and pedicurists.

Ping-pong will also be available, but just singles games. Doubles are not allowed in order to maintain social distancing, as pointed out by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 

How can I watch the NBA’s restart on TV?

Exact details for how to watch the games has not yet been released, though you can expect that Disney-owned ABC and ESPN will be broadcasting games (with ABC broadcasting the NBA Finals). ESPN was previously announced as the exclusive TV network for the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals. 

AT&T-owned Turner Sports, which runs TNT and “jointly” manages the league’s NBA Digital division that includes NBA TV, will also be broadcasting games. The network is a close NBA partner and broadcasts several regular-season games weekly as well as a bulk of playoff games. TNT was previously announced as the exclusive TV network for the 2020 Western Conference Finals. 

Beyond the July 30 TNT doubleheader the NBA has put out its national television schedule for the restart, with games on ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV. 

Regional sports networks like local Fox Sports channels, the YES Network (Brooklyn Nets) or Spectrum SportsNet (Los Angeles Lakers) will likely be involved as well, particularly when it comes to carrying the eight regular-season games. Details are still unknown and it isn’t clear whether those games will be able to be streamed over NBA League Pass, the NBA’s paid streaming service. 

You don’t need cable or satellite TV to watch the games on ESPN or TNT. Both channels are offered on four of the major live TV streaming services, though not all streaming services offer ABC and NBA TV. 

Sling TV’s $30-a-month Orange package includes ESPN and TNT but not ABC. If you want NBA TV you will also need to subscribe to the “Sports Extra” add-on for an additional $10 per month. 

Read our Sling TV review.

FuboTV recently signed a deal to add ESPN and ABC (where available) to its offering “this summer” but has yet to provide a date. When it does add the channels it will offer all four major channels: ABC, ESPN, NBA TV and TNT if you get the $55 per month Standard package plus the $6 per month fubo Extra add-on (for NBA TV).

Read our FuboTV review.

AT&T TV Now includes ABC, ESPN and TNT with its $55 per month Plus package, with some regional sports networks, like those in New York and Los Angeles, available in the $80 per Max offering. NBA TV, however, is not included until you go to the $124 per month Xtra package. 

Read our AT&T TV Now review.

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