The NBA is targeting a Dec. 22 start date for the 2020-21 NBA season. The season would include 72 games and finish before the Tokyo Olympics (despite an earlier statement by Adam Silver). That would allow the NBA to get back on its normal 82-game, October-June schedule for the 2021-22 season.
There is not a formal proposal yet, and owners and players would have to approve it. Given the timing (the draft is Nov. 18, and free agency would start shortly after), getting this done within the next two weeks is paramount.
Short turnaround time
A Dec. 22 start date would be a short turnaround time for the four teams that played in the conference finals. Eight teams haven’t played a game since March 11, another six teams were finished playing by mid-August, and another eight were done playing by early September. Outside of Denver, the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami, and Boston, teams will have had at least a couple of months off.
Free agency would have to start shortly after the Nov. 18 draft in time for what likely would be a truncated training camp, similar to the 2011 lockout season, which commenced on Dec. 25 with a 66-game schedule.
Starting on Dec. 22 and running the season that way will bring another $500 million in next season, the owners were told, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic. Half-a-billion dollars can change a lot of minds.
The players have to approve that earlier start. However, they will get roughly half of that increased Basketball Related Income — in a year they could lose a third of their salary or more to an escrow fund to help balance out the league’s losses — so expect them to be on board. It’s about money for them, too.
COVID-19 regulations not likely to relax anytime soon
Another reason for the quick start of the 2020-21 NBA season is that it appears COVID-19 regulations regarding sporting events will not relax anytime soon. There is little use in postponing the season till 2021 so states can allow gatherings of large crowds inside NBA arenas; ergo, the league wants to tip the season off as close as possible to its normal mid-October start date.
Another potential change in the upcoming season is the lack of an All-Star game. The league has made no decisions regarding the contest scheduled to occur in Indianapolis in 2021.