The NBPA, the union representing the league’s players, approved the NBA’s plan to begin a 72-game season on Dec. 22. That early-season opening will save more than $500 million in revenue for a league that has financially suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The season will also end on time for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, thus removing a potential conflict with several international basketball federations and their players. The 72-game agreement came after a vote of player representatives.
The agreement will also clear the way for the league and union to finalize details on the 2020-21 season, the NBPA announced.
The NBA and NBPA are planning to discuss the opening of free agency as quickly as possible after the Nov. 18 NBA draft to accommodate player movement with such a short window to the opening of training camps on Dec. 1, sources said.
The league and the NBPA need to still agree on COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming season, which will almost entirely be played in home markets (the same quarantine rules that pushed the Toronto Blue Jays to Buffalo, N.Y., will likely force the Raptors to relocate).
There were pockets of NBA players who wanted a longer offseason — even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said a December start seemed unlikely — but the financial concerns of an even further abbreviated season were too great to extend the offseason.
Besides, some league officials would say, eight teams haven’t played since March, and more than half the league was done playing by Sept. 1.