CHICAGO -- The Bulls 2019-20 season appears to be officially coming to its end Thursday, when the NBA's board of governors are expected to approve a 22-team format to restart the season in Orlando in late July.
The plan includes the top 16 teams in the Eastern and Western Conference as well as teams currently within six games of the postseason in either conference, with a handful of regular season games and a possible play-in tournament for the eighth seed. The Bulls were in 11th place and eight games behind Magic for the last playoff spot in the East when the season was suspended on March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It will bring an end to a disappointing season for the Bulls, who finished 22-43 after starting the year with aspirations of a return to the playoffs for the first time in three years. Although they matched their win total from last season in 17 fewer games, the Bulls expected to see their young core take a bigger step forward in the third season of this rebuilding project. The group instead scuffled out of the gates before injuries began to wreck havoc on their rotation. They currently hold the No. 7 spot in the draft lottery.
The Bulls were reportedly one of the ownership groups on a call with the NBA's board of governors who said they wanted to return, according to a report by The Athletic. Several players and staffers throughout the organization preferred not to. The league wanted to restrict the number of teams in attendance to shrink the size of the "NBA bubble" in Orlando and limit the chances of a coronavirus outbreak.
The plan has the NBA season set to resume on July 31 with games stretching into mid-October. The start of the 2020-21 season has been all but certain to be delayed for months. The league already pushed back its draft lottery and combine, /which were set to be held in Chicago in May. The NBA draft in Brooklyn was delayed as well.
There is increased speculation that Christmas Day could be the target date for the start of the 2020-21 season. That would leave the Bulls with more than nine months in between games, a long layoff for a team with a new front office structure and young roster still trying to gel together. As stay-at-home restrictions have been loosened across the state and the city of Chicago, the Advocate Center opened on Wednesday for voluntary player workouts with social distancing.
The Bulls already launched into the offseason in April when they overhauled their front office to hire Arturas Karnisovas as vice president of basketball operations and Marc Eversley as the general manager. The new Bulls regime already began evaluating the organization, and perhaps a handful of games would have helped, but that process is expected to continue, including a decision on coach Jim Boylen and his staff.
Both Karnisovas and Eversley wanted to a chance to get to Chicago for face-to-face meetings instead of phone calls and video chats, but they also wanted clarity on the remaining NBA calendar before making a final call on Boylen.
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