The 2019-20 NBA season ended 12 days ago — when the Lakers won the 2020 NBA championship — but the league is potentially looking to start up again in two months.
ESPN reported on Friday that the NBA is interested in moving up its projected start date to Christmas. That holiday has traditionally been the true grand opening for the season as the NFL regular-season comes to an end, compared to the “soft,” actual opening of October and November basketball.
There has been some discussion among owners about starting as soon as Christmas Day to take advantage of that historically prime NBA showcase, sources said. Numerous teams contacted by ESPN over the past several days weren’t sure such a timeline was feasible. Others have been pushing for a start around Martin Luther King Day weekend in mid-January, sources said.
Update: According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the league may even want to go sooner than that.
Multiple reporters from other outlets also confirmed that the league is increasingly interested in starting the season on or near Christmas.
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
The league is pushing for a Christmas Day start in the board of governors meeting, according to sources. Would still need PA’s approval. Discussing a 72-game schedule— Vincent Goodwill (@VinceGoodwill) October 23, 2020
As the report indicates, it is a swift timeline to bring the NBA back, but there is precedent. Back in 2011, the league didn’t reach a deal to end its lockout until Nov. 26, and the season began on Christmas. The draft had already been completed, but the NBA still got through free agency, training camps, and preseasons within that month before tipping off.
The difference now is that most of the players haven’t had a full-length offseason, other than the eight teams who were not invited to the bubble. The league is probably hoping that the pandemic hiatus serves as a substitute offseason for this year as it tries to get back on a normal calendar.
That really seems like the goal of this start date: getting back to a normal timeline. The NBA is sacrificing the potential to have fans in the stands for a full season by starting earlier and considering fewer than 82 games — both of which would result in more lost revenue — but this makes it easier to get the 2021-22 season on track.
Adam Silver has said that the league will give eight weeks notice before starting the season, so they have until Oct. 30 to finalize this arrangement, which also happens to be the day that the league and the NPBA agreed upon to complete negotiations regarding the collective bargaining agreement.
The NBA is planning to continue discussions with NBPA on 2020-2021 start plans that would include an opening night in the days prior to Christmas, 70-to-72 regular season games and a play-in tournament, sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/aTobRpe9tZ— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 23, 2020
Beyond the fact negotiations with the union must be completed to bargain tweaks to the CBA on a salary cap figure and luxury-tax threshold ... time is ticking for the NBA to uphold a pledge to the players that they would get at least eight weeks notice before next season starts— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 23, 2020
If the players are amenable, Christmas seems like the right start time. It’s a day that the NBA has historically owned on the calendar. Furthermore, the likelihood of having fans in arenas appears low, even if the NBA keeps waiting. Better to get all the ducks in a row for a bounce-back season in 2021-22 than continue to hope for gate revenue in this upcoming league year.
Another ancillary benefactor of a Christmas start date would be international basketball. This proposal makes it far more likely that NBA players can compete in the Olympics, which are currently scheduled to begin on July 23, 2021.
From a Lakers perspective, ring night is going to be strange without having Staples Center packed with fans. At least having it on Christmas would bring a little extra magic to that otherwise-strange ceremony.