"The NBA's back," according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
With those three words, the Toronto Raptors' title defense is set to begin again.
It's been almost three months since the NBA halted play on March 11 following the positive COVID-19 test of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
After weeks of speculation about a return this summer, all that's reportedly left to do is ratify the league's return during Thursday's Board of Governors conference call, per Wojnarowski
The league is reportedly planning to return on July 31 with 22 teams — the 16 playoff teams plus New Orleans, Portland, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, and Washington — playing eight regular-season games to finalize playoff seeding. The season will reportedly run until October 12 at the latest when Game 7 of the NBA Finals could take place.
When the season stopped, the Toronto Raptors were 6.5 games back of the Milwaukee Bucks for the top spot in the East and three games up on the Boston Celtics for the second seed in the conference. If the seedings hold, the Raptors would either open its playoffs in the traditional format either against Brooklyn or Orlando, who is 0.5 games back of the Nets for the seventh seed in the East.
With teams reportedly still vying for the eighth seeds, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania, it seems as though the NBA is planning to return with the traditional one through eight playoff format divided by conferences. However, if the league opts to try 1-16 seeding, the Raptors are currently in the three seed, 3.5 games back of the L.A. Lakers, and two games up on the L.A. Clippers. This format would mean the Raptors don't have much wiggle room to take it easy in a return with the Clippers right on their tail.
Though it's unclear what testing protocols will be in place for the league's return, the NBA will reportedly take steps to inhibit the spread of the virus by prohibiting showering at the arena, forcing bench players to spread-out rows apart, and no guests will be permitted into games until the playoffs, according to Charania.