Happy Sunday! We are now two full weeks removed from the end of the crazy and COVID-19 impacted 2020 NBA season, and while it originally appeared as if we were settling in for another long NBA hiatus, reports surfaced Friday afternoon indicating the start of next season could be MUCH sooner than we first thought:
The push for a Christmas Day start to the 2020-21 NBA season, which would naturally please the league's TV partners, is gaining momentum, league sources say— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 23, 2020
Not to be outdone, The Athletic’s Sham Charania tweeted out that not only could the start date be moved up, but the season itself may be shortened as well:
For months now it had been widely speculated that the NBA preferred to push back the 2020-2021 start date as far as possible in the hopes of once again allowing fans into arenas. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge throughout the country, it has become clearer and clearer that we may not be out of the woods come spring 2021, and the NBA appears to be pivoting from their original stance.
As Shams, Woj, and others reported Friday, starting the season approximately two months from now (with approximately ten less games) would allow for a mostly full season that would still wrap up prior to the 2021 Olympics in Japan. The scheduling move would also allow the league to (mostly) get back to their original late fall to early summer schedule, which *should* help ratings once again and not pit them directly against college and professional football.
The latest proposal pitched at the league’s board of governors meeting also included a variety of other changes for next season, including another play-in tournament (yay!), the likelihood of no All-Star Weekend (yay!) and a possible two-week break at the midway point of the season (Bahamas anyone?).
Another nugget of information in this latest story from Woj is that the NBA “strongly prefers to stay out of a bubble format and continues discussing travel and game schedules that would keep teams in a marketplace longer and playing multiple games, similar to Major League Baseball series.” Pandemic or no pandemic, this type of thinking just makes far too much sense, and will probably be something we see the league adopt long-term, even when the country returns to relative normalcy down the road.
While the NBA Bubble definitely took a toll on everyone involved, it was mentioned countless times by players, coaches, and team executives that the significant decrease in travel allowed them to recover faster and invest more time/care into their bodies, which one would think allows for a better on-court product and overall increased health for the players. It has never made real sense that a team like the Brooklyn Nets make multiple cross-country trips to California during the season, so modifying the schedule to be more innovative and player-friendly seems like a no-brainer as the NBA continues to develop their own “new normal.”
The one main sticking point to all of this will be the Player’s Association, who has yet to truly weigh in on the latest proposal; although, as Shams reported below, the financial implications of NOT accepting these new ideas may be catastrophic:
While many of us were just beginning to settle in for a long NBA hibernation, it now appears as if we may have a NBA overdose starting in a few weeks with the NBA Draft, quickly followed by free agency and then training camps a week or so later. That certainly may not appear to be ideal for everyone involved, but the league is clearly accepting the cards they have been dealt, and will look to possibly sacrifice another COVID-19 modified season in the hopes of truly getting the ship righted for the 2021-2022 season.