World Cup proposal on table for NBA return; Where would Spurs fall in possible group play

NBA sets sights on Disney World to house teams, exploring several options to return to play

The NBA wants to return. The big questions are how that will happen and who will participate.

Over the past few days, there have been several reported options for a possible return to action after play was suspended on March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The biggest hurdle was getting multiple teams to a single site that would be able to safely house players, coaches and staffs.

That appears to be in the final planning stages as Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex has emerged as the best “bubble-site” option.

The NBA confirmed Saturday it was in talks with Disney about returning to play at the end of July at the complex in Orlando, Fla.

The next step is finding a way to conclude the season. The league reportedly wants teams to play a few games to close the regular season.

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ESPN and The Ringer reported over the weekend there could be a group-play style setting similar to a FIFA World Cup.

Teams would be slotted into groups, play each other once and advance to a more formal playoff bracket.

By all accounts, it appears the playoffs would be series and not a single elimination tournament.

The Ringer reported the 20 teams with the best record would ideally take part in this setup. They would be separated into four groups of five teams.

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This is where the Spurs would get an opportunity to extend their playoff streak.

San Antonio currently has the league’s 20th best record which means they would make the cut.

To avoid competitive in-balance, the 20 teams would be broken up into tiers before they moved onto group play.

This means the Clippers, Lakers, Bucks or Raptors would not be grouped together since they had the best records before the league suspended play.

Under this scenario, possible group opponents for the Spurs would include the LA Clippers (Tier 1), Boston (Tier 2), Indiana (Tier 3) and Dallas (Tier 4).

There are also reports of a play-in tournament for the 7th and 8th seeds in each conference.

San Antonio is currently 12th in the Western Conference and would miss out on the playoffs if a play-in tournament takes place for teams 7-10 in each conference.

This is an issue the league is also facing. What are the incentives for teams currently out of the playoff picture?

The league could host a separate tournament to help these teams get better position in the draft, but some veteran players may not see the point in returning with no hopes to advance to the playoffs.

Portland’s Damian Lillard said Tuesday he will not play without an opportunity to make the playoffs.

San Antonio president R.C. Buford said weeks ago the Spurs want to return to play under any circumstance that is safe for the players and staff.

The NBA is getting closer, but there are still several questions that need to be answered.

About the Author:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.