New NBA season set to begin December 22

Taylor Martinez

Don’t worry, basketball fans — you’re now just 47 days away from your next fix of hoops action.

On Thursday, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) confirmed that the organization had “tentatively approved a start date of December 22” for the upcoming 2020-21 season.

The NBPA also confirmed it had agreed to a reduced length 72-game regular season.

The announcement has been an open secret for a while having been originally reported by the Athletic on October 22.

Nonetheless, the season will arrive earlier than many anticipated.

The final game of the 2020 NBA Finals came on October 11 from within a bio-secure bubble at Walt Disney World in Orlando, after a four month mid-season delay due to Covid-19.

In September, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told Bob Costas for CNN that his “best guess” was that the 2020-21 season would begin in January 2021 at the earliest.

NBA sources explained to ESPN the reasons behind the December 22 start lie in the perceived financial benefits to the league and its players: “The league believes that a Dec 22 start that includes Christmas Day games on television and allows for a 72-game schedule that finishes before the Summer Olympics in mid-July is worth between $500 million and $1 billion in short- and long-term revenues to the league and players.”



Speaking to The Ringer’s NBA Show, the Los Angeles Lakers‘ Danny Green joked in late October that considering that number of veterans on the team including NBA Finals MVP LeBron James, many might not show up for the December 22 start date.

“I wouldn’t expect to see him [James] there, I wouldn’t expect to see him for the first month of the season,” Green said. “He’ll probably be working out with us, he’ll probably do some playing. But I just don’t expect guys to want to be there or show up willingly.”

He added: “It might be different in about two weeks.”

More recently, Green reiterated that he had been joking, and that the Lakers would show up even if he and his teammates wished the season commenced later rather than sooner.

“To do a long season like we had, regardless of how long we had in between, we still finished at a date and to start up a month-and-a-half later, or two months later, is tough.

“But we will show up for work, so don’t take it out of context, and I’ll speak no more on it, but we hope that we get a little more time to relax and rest and give our bodies a chance to recover before we start back up again.”

Green makes a fair point though.

The difference between the rest teams have had is stark. If the Lakers and their Finals opponents the Miami Heat both play on the opening night of the season, players will have had just 72 days to rest.

The eight teams which did not enter the NBA Bubble have not played since either March 10 or 11. If they were to play on the opening night, each team would be playing its first game for nearly 290 days.

Another variable for teams is the NBA Draft.

The 2019 NBA Draft took place on June 20 2019 before the season began later that year on October 22.

Rookies taken in that draft like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant had, in theory, 121 days to meet with their respective teams, negotiate a contract, integrate into their new teams, train, play in NBA Summer League games before the season began.

Previous years followed a similar pattern.

In contrast, the 2020 NBA Draft will take place on November 18, theoretically meaning rookies will have just 34 days to do this.

It is not yet clear how many, if any, preseason games will take place.


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