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NBA aims at October as end date of corona-hit season

Last updated 2 months ago | By AFP

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) defends against Warriors guard Jordan Poole during a past match at Chase Center. [USA TODAY Sports]

The NBA is aiming to complete the 2020 season by mid-October, reports said on Tuesday, as the league edges towards a return from the coronavirus shutdown.

ESPN reported that according to a time frame due to be voted on by NBA's Board of Governors today, Game 7 of the NBA Finals would take place no later than October 12.

The NBA and NBA Players Association are still finalising the details of the resumption of the season, which was halted on March 11 as the coronavirus pandemic erupted.

ESPN reported that the league is planning a 22-team format for its return to play on July 31. 

All games are expected to be within the confines of Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando Florida, with all teams remaining on site to minimise risk of Covid-19 outbreaks.

The NBA's proposal to be put before the board today requires support from three quarters of the league's 30 teams in order to be approved.

ESPN reported there was overwhelming support for the plan being recommended by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

One of the key issues to be settled is the format of the competition which will determine the final line-up for the 16-team playoffs. 

Six teams currently just outside the playoff places will be included in the 22-team field and given the opportunity to claim a playoff berth.

If approved, the format will bring an abrupt end to the season for eight teams languishing outside the top 22.

Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said on Tuesday exclusion from the restarted season would hurt his young team.

"The biggest thing we can benefit from is playing basketball," Pierce said. 

"I play young guys, I have young guys - we need to play basketball." 

The restart is expected to include a two-week quarantine for players in their home cities, one to two weeks of workouts at team facilities followed by two-week training camps.

The regular season was halted abruptly after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive. Gobert, of France, was given the all-clear about two weeks later.

So far, less than a dozen NBA players have been confirmed as testing positive for the coronavirus although not all have been identified.

Meanwhile, NBA Hall-of-Famer Wes Unseld, one of only two players to win MVP honours in his rookie season, died Tuesday, his family said. He was 74.

Unseld, selected by the Baltimore Bullets with the second pick in the 1968 draft, had been dealing with long-running health issues including a recent bout of pneumonia.

"He was the rock of our family -- an extremely devoted patriarch who reveled in being with his wife, children, friends and teammates," the family said in a statement. 

"He was our hero and loved playing and working around the game of basketball for the cities of Baltimore and Washington DC, cities he proudly wore on his chest for so many years."

Unseld spent the entirety of his career with the Bullets, who later moved to Washington.

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