The NBA is crystallizing its return plan.
The league will vote to ratify on Thursday a plan to return at Disney in Orlando with a 22-team format that will see each team play eight regular-season games, according to multiple reports. Should the ninth seed be four or fewer games behind the eighth seed after those regular-season games, those two teams would meet in a play-in round in which the ninth seed would have to beat the eighth seed twice to get into the 16-team playoff. The eighth seed would only need to win once to advance in that scenario.
According to ESPN, 13 teams in the Western Conference and nine teams in the East will go to Orlando if the plan is approved by the Board of Governors. The Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns are the teams not currently in the playoffs being invited to Orlando, per ESPN. All five teams are within six games of the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies; the first four of those teams are within four games of Memphis. The Washington Wizards, 5.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic in the East, are the only East invitee currently outside the playoff picture.
The Brooklyn Nets (30-34) are currently seventh in the East, a half-game ahead of Orlando.
With every remaining game set to take place at a neutral site, some higher-seeded teams have been kicking around ideas regarding how they can regain the lost home-court advantage. According to ESPN, one suggestion called for the higher-seeded team being awarded the first possession of the second, third and fourth quarters, following the traditional jump ball to begin the game. Another proposed that the higher-seeded team be allowed to designate one player to be able to be whistled for seven fouls instead of six before fouling out.
Other proposals included the higher-seeded team receiving an extra coach’s challenge, being able to transport their actual hardwood home court from their arenas to Orlando, and an off-court feature in which playoff teams receive first choice on picking which hotel they will stay at in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Disney World Resort.
“I do think the NBA cares about it,” one Eastern Conference executive told ESPN when asked about making up for home-court advantage. “I do not think it’s a top priority for them.”
However, none of the potential home-court advantage alternatives were brought up at the NBA’s competition committee meeting – which included owners, general managers, players and coaches – on Tuesday, according to ESPN.
League executives raised questions about how many of the proposed benefits would equal that of a home-court advantage, per ESPN. They questioned if the ideas could come off as “too gimmicky” and compromise the legitimacy of the tournament.
ESPN reported that one executive suggested that the league should present the higher-seeded teams with a selection of league-approved options before each game or series and have them chose one.
Another “radical” suggestion one Western Conference executive told ESPN would be to allow the higher seed to pick its first-round opponent.
“Picking your opponent can lead to bad karma,” he told ESPN, noting that previous G League experimentation led to upsets. “You can offend the basketball gods.”