Danny Green made some headlines earlier this week when he said that he and some of his Lakers teammates — including LeBron James — wouldn’t be thrilled with the NBA returning the week of Christmas, but it seems more and more like that is what the league is pushing towards.
Marc Stein of the New York Times reported in his always-excellent weekly newsletter that the NBA and NBPA have until Friday to either strike a deal on a return plan or agree to another deferral, and offered the latest sign that a Dec. 22 start (or something around there) appears increasingly inevitable:
The league office cannot unilaterally impose its preferred timetable upon N.B.A. players, but negotiations are underway before a looming Friday deadline to modify the current labor agreement. Although that deadline has been moved back three times, expectations are that the sides will ultimately strike a deal this time on the terms for next season, such as setting the salary cap and luxury tax figures and an overhauled calendar with Dec. 22 as opening night.
If that is ultimately when the season starts, don’t expect the Lakers to be jumping for joy that their title defense will begin with a training camp less than two months (Dec. 1) after they raised the franchise’s 17th championship trophy on Oct. 11.
Potentially adding to the drama is that Shams Charania of The Athletic said during an appearance on NBA TV that the 35-year-old James — coming off of one of the most high-usage seasons a player his age has ever went through — is not the only star player resistant to the idea of such a swift return (emphasis mine):
“There is some skepticism around the players, a lack of consensus among the players, about starting that early and what that would entail from a player perspective and a team perspective. Because the season just ended on Oct. 11, and so for the two Finals teams to then turn around two months later and begin (the season) is a tall task.
“There are several star players around the league, including LeBron James, that are not for a start that quick on Dec. 22 and believe that it is too soon, I’m told. And so when you have factors like that, it makes those scenarios hurdles as far as right now... There is still a gap that remains for the two sides to come to an agreement and a consensus. And that’s just a Dec. 22 start. There are other issues like the salary cap, the player escrows.”
Yahoo Sources: Substantial faction of players and star players pushing for NBA season to start Jan. 18 — MLK Day — with a free-agency commencement of Dec. 1.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) October 28, 2020
Still, there is a reason that the deal getting done seems like a matter of if rather than when, and it’s not just that there is reportedly around $500 million on the line. Charania reiterated that getting back on a normal timeline and being ready for the Olympics are also issues that matter to the players.
“But for the league and the players, there has always been a hope of wanting to get back on the normal NBA schedule, as well as potentially allowing players to be able to play in the Olympics next summer. We don’t know if there will be an Olympics, but that is something that was a priority for the league office as they presented a potential plan to the Board of Governors on Friday.”
With just two days until the next deadline for the league and players to negotiate a deal, expect all of this to continue to change at a rapid pace. But the bottom line is that it’s hard to blame James or any of the other Lakers for not liking this. They may be outvoted, but we can still acknowledge that it’s a little unfair that they will be expected to suit up again so soon after just finishing out the longest title run in NBA history.
That said, if this comes to pass, they’re going to have to just deal with it. The Lakers may need to use some unprecedented levels of load management to keep everyone healthy after such an expedited offseason, but they will at least have the benefit of continuity going into what promises to be a wild title defense.
They’ll be starting at a disadvantage most contenders have never had to deal with, to be sure. But this team is no stranger to adversity. They were born in it. Molded by it. Won a title through it. It’s somehow fitting that the #WashedKing and his supporting cast may start out their quest to repeat with yet another hurdle to clear. If the past is prologue, it will be an obstacle they soar over with flying colors.