Despite so much uncertainty over the past seven months amid a global health crisis, the NBA successfully wrapped up its Bubble experiment in Orlando earlier this month, with the Lakers taking home the 2020 title and tying the Celtics for the most championships in league history.
But with that obstacle now in the rear-view mirror, it’s on to the next major challenge: how and when to start the 2020-2021 season. There are no easy answers to any of this, although the league itself has taken the rather lofty position that it prefers to begin sooner rather than later, with a proposed Dec. 22 start date that would preserve the Christmas Day slate, among other major revenue streams.
Making that date would be a massive undertaking, given everything that would have to fall into place between now and then, including the draft, free agency, training camp, and many other considerations that would be have to be worked out in the collective bargaining agreement between all three parties.
If you ask NBPA director Michele Roberts, the Dec. 22 goal is unlikely, to say the least.
Ahead of next deadline on NBA CBA, NBPA’s Michele Roberts tells @TheAthleticNBA: “The union and the players…will not be rushed. Given all that has to be resolved between now and a Dec. 22 date…it defies common sense that it can all be done in time.”https://t.co/9uuBAznV15
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 29, 2020
According to a recent report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, there is a new target date that is apparently gaining traction among some of the league’s biggest stars: Martin Luther King Day on January 21. That would push free agency out to Dec. 1 instead of the current Nov. 20 date that would be necessary for the Dec. 22 start.
Either way, the NBA ideally wants to avoid any overlap with the Tokyo Olympics, which have been postponed until next summer, and they would also like to preserve the NBA’s summer vacation in general. Both would essentially mean a shortened season, with a 72-game slate currently being floated around as a potential alternate schedule.
There’s still a lot to be worked out before any of this is finalized — such as how and when to safely allow fans back into arenas, which is one of the league’s primary goals next season — but the clock is ticking, and significant aspects of the NBA’s future hinge on how they decide to move forward.