The Utah Jazz will be the first team basketball fans can see on TV when the NBA resumes its season in Orlando, Florida.
The NBA released its 88-game schedule for the league’s restart Friday following a months-long shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Jazz will play the New Orleans Pelicans at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, July 30, in the first game at Disney World’s sports complex.
Each of the 22 participating teams will play eight games between July 30 and Aug. 14 ahead of an expected playoff start of Aug. 17. The NBA determined bring nine teams from the Eastern Conference and 13 from the Western Conference to vie for eight playoff spots on each side in what it calls “seeding games.” The games will count toward final regular-season records and statistics.
In a release, the NBA said it attempted to keep as many of the same matchups in the same order as were set in the league’s original schedule.
The Jazz are currently 41-23 and in fourth place in the Western Conference. With eight games left, they have mathematically clinched a playoff spot.
The Jazz were a logical storyline for the first game back, after Utah’s All-Star center Rudy Gobert was the first player in the league to test positive for the coronavirus — a development that forced the league to suspend the season on March 11. More than four and a half months will have passed between game nights in the NBA, but the league officially completed talks Friday with the National Basketball Players Association on the terms for restarting the season and therefore could release the schedule for the seeding games.
Players will start arriving at the Disney complex on July 7, will be tested daily once they get there, and could be away from their families for more than three months. Families aren’t expected to be permitted on-site at Disney until the start of the second round of the playoffs, set to begin in late August or early September.
For the 22 teams going to Disney World, the setup of the eight-game slates will be largely the same — one back-to-back for each of the clubs, with all the games set to be played in a 16-day span ending Aug. 14. The NBA will be using three arenas and, other than the two-game slate on the opening night, there will be somewhere between four and seven games played each day.
There will be some very unusual elements, with games starting as early as 1 p.m. on weekdays, 12:30 p.m. on weekends and most nights seeing the slate end with 9 p.m. tip-offs — other than NBA Finals games, an absolute rarity for games being played on the East Coast.
Plans call for 52 of the 88 seeding games to be nationally televised, with 18 on TNT (including the opening-night doubleheader), 17 on ESPN, 14 on NBA TV and three on ABC. Games will be shown in local markets as well.
In the West, both Los Angeles squads currently top the standings — Lakers, then Clippers — and have clinched a playoff spot, followed by Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston in the top six who are safely in the playoffs.
Dallas is nearly clinched, holding a six-game lead over Memphis for the seventh spot. Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento and San Antonio round out the West field, all about four games back of Memphis for the final playoff spot. With Jusuf Nurkic and Zac Collins returning from injury to join Damian Lillard in what was the best season of his career, Portland may have the best chance to make a run at Memphis.
In the East, Milwaukee, Toronto, Boston, Miami, Indiana and Philadelphia have clinched playoff spots. Brooklyn (six games up) and Orlando (5 1/2 games up) round out the top eight, and only need to hold off Washington to make the playoffs.
The Jazz will be without Bojan Bogdanovic, who had season-ending wrist surgery in May.
All games will air locally on AT&T Sports Network. National TV assignments are indicated below. All times Mountain.
July 30: Utah vs. New Orleans, 4:30 p.m. (TNT)
Aug. 1: Utah vs. Oklahoma City, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Aug. 3: Utah vs. L.A. Lakers, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Aug. 5: Utah vs. Memphis, 12:30 p.m.
Aug. 7: Utah vs. San Antonio, 11 a.m.
Aug. 8: Utah vs. Denver, 1:30 p.m. (TNT)
Aug. 10: Utah vs. Dallas, 1 p.m. (NBATV)
Aug. 13: Utah vs. San Antonio, TBD