U.S. markets close in 1 hour 28 minutes

NBA poised to approve 22-team return for virus-hit season, report

The NBA's return to basketball plan requires support from three quarters of the league's 30 teams in order to be approved (AFP Photo/Jeenah Moon)

Los Angeles (AFP) - The NBA is finalizing details of a plan which is expected to be approved by the league's Board of Governors on Thursday, paving the way for a return from the coronavirus shutdown.

The board is poised to give the green light to commissioner Adam Silver's return of basketball which would begin July 31 with a 22-team format, and end in mid-October with a champion being crowned, ESPN reported.

The plan requires support from three quarters of the league's 30 teams in order to be approved.

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Nets and Orlando Magic currently hold the playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies occupy the postseason positions in the Western Conference.

Under the plan, each of the 22 teams will play eight regular-season games for seeding purposes for the postseason.

The 16 teams currently in the playoff picture will be joined by the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference.

In the East, the Washington Wizards are also included.

The Pelicans (28-36), Kings (28-36) and Trail Blazers (29-37) are 3 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies (32-33) in the Western Conference.

The Spurs (27-36) are four games adrift of the Grizzlies, while the Suns (26-39) are six behind.

Washington (24-40) is six games behind the seventh-place Brooklyn Nets (30-34) and 5 1/2 back of the eighth-place Orlando Magic (30-35).

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.

Once it becomes official, the format would bring an abrupt end to the season for eight teams languishing outside the top 22.

The restart is also 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 league wants to have daily testing and if a player tests positive he would be isolated and quarantined. The others would carry on playing while still being tested on a daily basis.

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.