How to watch the return of the NBA: Jazz vs. Pelicans, Clippers vs. Lakers & more

NBA Trophy
NBA Trophy (Image credit: NBA)

The NBA's regular season ended in March, a month earlier than it was supposed to. No basketball, no playoffs, no champion. Well, now it's back and ready to finish the season in one of the more unique solutions to the pandemic in the sports world. The top 22 teams in the league vying for a playoff spot and a chance at the championship have been sequestered in Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

The bubble has worked for them, too, has the NBA has reported no new cases of COVID-19 since July 20. That means they're ready to play and the first tip-off starts tonight with the Utah Jazz vs. the New Orleans Pelicans at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. You'll also be able to watch the L.A. Clippers vs. the Los Angeles Lakers at 9 p.m.

The teams have been arriving in Florida since early July, and they have already been scrimmaging against each other. Under this new format, the 22 teams will each play eight "regular season" games to determine seeding, with a possible final play-in tournament for the last playoff spots. Six teams will be eliminated before the playoffs, which will follow the NBA's regular playoff format, start on Aug. 17.

Here's how to watch both of tonight's games and the rest of this unique NBA season since they probably aren't going to let you in the bubble:

NBA: Where and when?

All of the games will be played inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and the NBA plans to take advantage of all the facilities available, including playing the games at three different arenas inside the complex. There will be no spectators for these games, although friends and guests of the remaining teams will be allowed in for the final rounds of the playoffs starting Aug. 30. So, if you have a connection... let me know. Otherwise you will need to get access to one of the national channels broadcasting the majority of the games: TNT, ESPN, ABC, or NBA TV.

The first two games tip-off tonight, July 30, at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tomorrow will include six games starting at 2:30 p.m. until the final tip-off at 9 p.m.

How to watch the NBA 2020 season from anywhere

NBA games aren't all played on a single channel, and despite all of them happening in the same place for the rest of this unusual season, not all of them will be broadcast on national TV either. If you want to watch everything, you're going to need to prepare in advance. Don't worry, we've got a great list of all the streaming services you can use to keep up.

Remember that just like with the MLB and other sports finally returning, NBA games will still be subjected to blackout rules. If you want to watch your local team, you may have a hard time doing that even with the more advanced streaming options. A VPN may be just what you're looking for in that case. Virtual Private Networks, and we know some of the best VPNs around, let you virtually change your IP address on your laptop, tablet, or other device. Changing that address effectively changes your location even to a different country, which can actually be helpful for a lot of different reasons.

VPN's are incredibly easy to use and have the added benefit of giving you a further layer of security when surfing the web. There are lots of options, and we recommend ExpressVPN as our #1 pick due to its speed, security, and ease of use. It can be used on a vast array of operating systems and devices (e.g. iOS, Android, Smart TVs, Fire TV Stick, Roku, games consoles, etc). Sign up for ExpressVPN now now and enjoy a 49% discount and 3 months FREE with an annual subscription. Or give it a try with its 30-day money-back guarantee. Looking for other options? Here are some alternatives that are on sale right now.

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No matter where in the world you may be, a VPN is one of the easiest ways to watch the MLB 2020 Season. Get in on this deal now!

How to watch the NBA online

Well, you already know you can't be at the games in person, and if you don't have a cable subscription you're going to need to know how to watch these games. The four national broadcasters include TNT, ESPN, ABC, and NBA TV. Even with a cable subscription, you'd probably need to pay extra to get access to all of those. For games broadcast on the local channels, like ABC, you can use a simple over-the-air antenna like the Mohu ReLeaf. Then you can pair that with a service like Sling TV, which gives you access to ESPN, TNT, and the NBA TV channel with an add-on that will also include the team channel of your choice.

If you choose to sign up with Sling, you'll want to pick the Sling Orange package, which is the version of the service that gives you access to ESPN. It costs $30 a month, and the NBA TV package will cost another $17.99 a month. However, that latter add-on has no contract or commitment. You can cancel whenever you want so you don't have to keep paying for it after the season is over. Even with that package, Sling TV is the least expensive choice and easiest way to get access to all the nationally broadcast NBA games.

Another way to watch some NBA games is through the NBA League Pass, but I'll be honest this is probably not what you want. The League Pass cannot get around blackouts, so you won't be able to watch your local team, and it does not broadcast games already being broadcast on the national networks. Of the 37 seeding games, 23 of them will be nationally broadcast. You want something that gives you access to those games.

There are a few other ways to gain access to those national broadcasters without paying for a cable subscription:

  • YouTube TV - $65 per month - Includes all four national broadcasters and you can even add the NBA League Pass for out-of-market non-national games.
  • Hulu with Live TV - $54.99 per month - Unlike Sling, Hulu with Live TV includes your local ABC network as well as access to ESPN and TNT. However, it does not have the NBA TV channel even as an add-on.
  • AT&T TV Now - $65 per month - Includes ABC, ESPN, and TNT, but not the NBA TV channel. On the bright side, you can get access to HBO included with your plan. The service allows you to watch over 45 live TV channels and you can also record up to 20 hours of content using its cloud DVR.
  • - $55 per month - Includes NBA TV for an additional $6 a month. However, as of right now Fubo does not have ESPN, ABC, or TNT. The first two will be added sometime in August, but TNT is gone for now.

Watch every game!

Most of the games played in Florida will be nationally broadcast. It's going to be pretty important to have access to channels like TNT and ESPN if you want to watch the rest of the NBA season. This is a unique situation, and it seems like the NBA wants to get those games out there as much as possible. And, of course, these "regular season" seeding games are just the appetizer. The real games to watch will be the NBA playoffs, and those will all be nationally televised. If your heart has been yearning for some basketball action, you'll want to be able to see every play and every point scored.

John Levite
J.D. Levite has been in the deals game since 2012. He has posted daily deals at Gizmodo, The Wirecutter, The Sweethome, and now for Thrifter. He was there for the first Prime Day and has braved the full force of Black Friday. If you cut him, he bleeds savings. But don't try it for real. That's a metaphor.