Less than two weeks after the NBA season finally came to an end, the league could be looking toward a start to next season as soon as Dec. 22.
The Athletic reported that a source inside the NBA’s Board of Governor’s meeting Friday indicated that a Dec. 22 start with a 72-game schedule is the target. ESPN said that Christmas Day could be the startup date with a schedule of 70 to 72 games.
A league source said that while NBA commissioner Adam Silver has stated that the league would not start before Christmas Day, that day was still on the table and it was discussed with teams at the meeting on Friday.
But the NBA and the team owners are not the only ones who have to agree to this. The NBA players association must OK a plan, and there are many obstacles still to be sorted out before any deal is done. The NBA and the NBPA are still working out the details of a revised collective bargaining agreement - with a deadline pushed back to Oct. 30 to get it done.
The league’s television partners may be pushing harder for the Christmas Day start than anyone else, but there are reasons the league would have an interest in getting this started as soon as possible - even if it means an early start would not include fans in the stands.
While having fans in the arenas has been a goal all along, it has become increasingly unrealistic for an indoor event with the virus spiking again in much of the nation. One NBA source said a schedule could be heavily-weighted to division play - for example, the Knicks would play most of their games, at least early, against the Atlantic Division including the Philadelphia 76ers, the Brooklyn Nets, the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors, like the Toronto Blue Jays in Major League Baseball, might have to relocate for the start of the season, with New Jersey a possibility.
A reduced schedule from the normal 82-game regular season along with the early start would open up the possibility of NBA stars being a part of the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. As of now, the Olympics are scheduled to be played from July 23 to August 8.
While this is the latest incarnation of a plan, everything may still be on the table including a later start - some are pushing for a Martin Luther King Day start - Jan. 18 is the holiday and even beginning the weekend ahead of it is possible. ESPN reported that the All-Star weekend in Indianapolis could be passed over to allow teams to fit the schedule into the tightened window.