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NBA owners approve 22-team season restart plan – The Associated Press

The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved a 22-team format for restarting the league season in late July at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, another major step toward getting teams back onto the court and playing games again.

The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilization of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference postseason fields. The National Basketball Players Association has a call on Friday to approve the plan as well.

Thursday’s vote was the most significant step yet in the process of trying to resume a season that was suspended nearly three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. There are numerous other details for the league to continue working through — including finalizing specifics of what the testing plan will be once teams arrive next month at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex and the calculating the financial ramifications of playing a shortened regular season.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts.”

Meanwhile, a person speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the details of the ongoing talks have not been publicly released, said the NBPA and the NBA are continuing to work on a “lengthy” medical protocols document. The details of that document will be shared with teams once those discussions are completed, said the person, who added that teams should receive them in plenty of time for them to prepare for their arrivals at the Disney-ESPN complex.

The NBA also said it is planning to have the draft lottery Aug. 25, the draft on Oct. 15 and start next season on Dec. 1.

If all 22 teams that are going to Disney next month play their allotted eight games before the postseason begins, the NBA would play 1,059 games in this regular season. That means 171 regular season games would be canceled, which could cost players around $600 million in salary.

Those 22 clubs would play somewhere between 71 and 75 regular season games if the Disney portion of the schedule is completed, down from the customary 82-game slate. The teams who didn’t qualify for the restart will see their seasons end after having played somewhere between 64 and 67 games.

But one of the biggest hurdles is now cleared, and if things go according to plan an NBA champion for a season unlike any other will be crowned in October. The season could go into that month if the league goes ahead with its plan for the same playoff rules as usual, that being every round utilizing a best-of-seven format.

Teams will likely arrive at the Disney complex around July 7. Once there, camps will continue and teams will likely have the chance to have some scrimmages or “preseason” games against other clubs before the regular season resumes.

Thursday’s move by the board of governors — one that came, coincidentally, on the same day this season’s NBA Finals would have started if these were normal times — was largely a formality. The NBA considered countless restart options after suspending the season on March 11, whittled that list down to four possibilities last week and from there the 22-team plan quickly began gaining momentum.

The 22-team plan includes all teams that were holding playoff spots when the season was stopped, plus all other clubs within six games of a postseason berth.

Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston and reigning NBA champion Toronto had already clinched playoff berths. Now with only eight games remaining for each team, it means that eight other clubs — Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston — have postseason spots secured, and Dallas virtually has one as well.

Full Coverage: NBA

That leaves nine teams vying for three remaining playoff berths. In the East, Brooklyn, Orlando and Washington are in the race for two spots. In the West, Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix will jostle for one spot.

If the gap between eighth place and ninth place in either conference is four games or less when the shortened regular season ends, those teams will go head-to-head for the No. 8 seed. The team in ninth place would have to go 2-0 in a two-game series to win the berth; otherwise, the No. 8 seed would advance to the postseason.

Thursday’s decision also means that the seasons for Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, Golden State, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago and Charlotte are over. The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the third-longest current drought in the league behind Sacramento and Phoenix — who still have chances of getting into the playoffs this season.

And with the Hawks not moving on, it also means Vince Carter has almost certainly played the final game of his 22-year NBA career — the longest in league history.

Carter, the first player in NBA history to appear in four different decades, is retiring. He appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league’s all-time list.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Israeli MPs approve formation of Netanyahu-Gantz government – Al Jazeera English

Israeli MPs have approved the formation of a unity government between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz, paving the way to an end to more than a year of deadlock.

Parliament voted by 71 votes to 37 to back the coalition deal that will see Netanyahu and Gantz, a centrist former military leader, share power.

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The two leaders have said they will swear in their new administration on May 13, with Netanyahu remaining leader for 18 months, before handing over to Gantz who will be prime minister for the next 18 months.

The proposed government was challenged in the Supreme Court, with opponents arguing Netanyahu was ineligible to rule due to a series of corruption indictments. They also complained that certain provisions in the coalition deal broke the law.

But the court ruled on Wednesday evening that “there was no legal reason to prevent the formation of a government” led by Netanyahu.

It added that by approving the coalition it “was not seeking to diminish the severity of the charges” against Netanyahu, but concluded that those could be handled in his trial, which is due to begin on May 24.

Israel has been without a stable government since December 2018, with the country seeing three successive elections in which Gantz’s centrist Blue and White and Netanyahu’s Likud were near neck and neck.

During that time Netanyahu has remained in power in a caretaker capacity.

Netanyahu has been charged with accepting improper gifts and illegally trading favours in exchange for positive media coverage.

He denies wrongdoing but if the trial goes ahead as planned, he will become the first serving Israeli leader to be tried.

After the third election in March this year, Gantz broke with large parts of his Blue and White alliance and agreed to form a unity government.

He said it was necessary to provide political stability as the country seeks to repair the economic damage wrought by a coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 16,000 people.

Gantz’s critics, including many former allies, accuse him of betraying his voters after campaigning for cleaner politics and pledging not to serve under an indicted prime minister.

While Israeli law bars ministers from serving while under indictment, there is no such law for prime ministers.

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