The NBA took its most significant step yet toward resuming its season Thursday, as the its board of governors approved a plan for the league to return to play with 22 teams participating in eight regular-season games followed by the playoffs at a bubble site in Orlando, the league announced Thursday.
The plan is still pending approval Friday from the NBA Players’ Association, but a source said that approval is expected and means the Timberwolves 2019-20 season is over.
The Wolves had a 19-45 record when the league postponed its season March 11 after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. That would leave them out of the 22-team return-to-play scenario that includes 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern.
“While we are disappointed for our team and our fans that our season is coming to an end, we understand and accept the league’s plan to move forward with 22 teams,” Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas said in a statement.
“It is important that we be a good teammate not only to the NBA, but to the other 29 teams to support the efforts to complete this season and prepare for next season in a healthy and safe manner.
“Our offseason program will be intensive and thorough to make sure our players continue their development and are prepared for the start of the 2020-21 season. ... We will also use this offseason to work tirelessly to help our community heal, to influence change and to promote thoughtful actions in response to recent events.”
The league is planning to have the returning teams play eight regular-season games when it resumes, with July 31 as the likely date of the first games.
There will be a play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed in each conference if the No. 8 and 9 seeds are within four games of each other.
The No. 8 seed would have to beat the No. 9 team once, while the No. 9 team would have to beat the No. 8 seed twice.
The vote on the plan was 29-1 with Portland the lone dissenting vote, according to multiple reports. Not only did the board of governors approve the plan, but it also released other key dates in its schedule.
Of interest to Wolves fans, the draft lottery will be Aug. 25, and the draft is set for Oct. 15, three days after a potential Game 7 of the finals would take place.
The league is targeting Dec. 1 as a start date for next season — more than a month later than usual.
Free agency for next season would begin Oct. 18 with training camps set to open Nov. 10, the Athletic reported. The league could approve some sort of workout plans in the interim for the eight teams not making the trip to Orlando.
Otherwise there would be eight months between the end of this past season and the start of next year’s training camps for those teams.
The Wolves’ season would end unceremoniously, but it was still a season that set them up for the future in Rosas’ eyes. By making multiple moves before the deadline, Rosas landed the franchise-changing player he coveted in D’Angelo Russell while also acquiring Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez, two players the Wolves have said they would like to re-sign as they enter restricted free agency.
But the next major dates on the Wolves’ schedule will be the draft. Per the NBA’s release the draft lottery will consist of the eight teams that didn’t make the cut for Orlando, plus the six teams that don’t qualify for the playoffs there.
Their odds of getting the No. 1 pick will be sorted by all teams’ records as of March 11. This means the Wolves, who had the third-worst record, will have a 14% chance of getting the top pick.
They also stand to acquire the Nets’ first-round pick as part of their dealing before the deadline if Brooklyn makes the playoffs.
The Nets were the No. 7 seed in the East when play stopped, six games ahead of Washington, the No. 9 seed.
Brooklyn would retain the pick in the unlikely event that it finishes out of the playoffs.