Over the last week, the negotiations between the NBA and National Basketball Players Association over when the 2020-21 season will start have grown increasingly tense and public.
Last Friday, multiple reports revealed that the league’s Board of Governors were pushing for a 72-game season starting around Christmas, which would mean free agency would take place around Thanksgiving. The Lakers — who only just finished their season this month — were understandably not thrilled about the quick turnaround time, with LeBron James reportedly one of several star players who thought that date was too soon. At least a decent chunk of players would appear to agree, based on NBPA executive director Michelle Roberts saying that they wouldn’t be rushed into accepting a December start while they decide what the best options are.
In a clear attempt to ratchet up the pressure, the ownership groups have now let their counter-offer be known:
NBA players may only be offered a 50-game season, I'm told, if the union insists on a mid-January start rather than the Dec. 22 proposal, because the league's television partners do not want the 2020-21 season to stray past mid-July ... or clash with the Tokyo Olympics— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 30, 2020
The Pacers' Malcolm Brogdon, who is on the union's executive committee, told @Rachel__Nichols yesterday he expects today's deadline on talks to be extended for the fourth time this year.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 30, 2020
But a resolution in the standoff is expected by next week with all sides antsy for clarity.
That a resolution is still expected next week is good news, given that things appear to be getting increasingly acrimonious, even if the the two sides mutually agreed to avoid a lockout for the time being and continue negotiating:
There's still a gulf between NBA and NBPA on a start date for the 2020-2021 season, sources tell ESPN. NBA wants pre-Christmas; NBPA still preferring mid-January. Economic issues remain significant, including escrow withholding on player salaries w/ revenues down b/c of no fans. https://t.co/tX4dlyP1EE— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 31, 2020
It would seem the league has yet brought that up in negotiations yet, though, even if they’ve (apparently) discussed it internally:
The NBA wants a shortened 72-game season with the Dec. 22 start, but playing fewer games than that in a potential January start hasn't been raised, sources said.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 31, 2020
But all that aside, it would seem things are still rather far apart — especially if the above report is really what the league is planning to offer — because Jared Dudley, who was the Lakers’ alternate player rep with the union this season and is as plugged into (and candid about) how most players are thinking as any current player, did not like the idea of playing just 50 games.
It’s fair to assume he’s not the only player who feels this way.
Can’t play 50 games .. Thats a hard no for the players! Has to be a min of 72.. the real question is what change in a week? The league kept saying January January.. Everybody knew how big Christmas was and Olympics being late July months ago.. TV just mentioned it now?? https://t.co/JSQdY3sTXz— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) October 30, 2020
The reason? Money:
50 game season = loss of pay in $1.6B— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) October 30, 2020
72 game season= players getting hammered with escrow but finances getting in order for 2021-22 and beyond
It’s unclear what the “drop-dead date” — i.e. when the two sides would need to figure this out before the owners used the force majeure clause to tear up the CBA and initiate a lockout, rather than continuing to extend that date as they have so far — is for these negotiations, but while they continue to go on, NBA players will at least be able to congregate together at practice facilities if they want to stay sharp and work on their games. With some restrictions, of course.
NBA players must be tested every day for the coronavirus and return a negative test each time to be allowed to participate in offseason workouts at team facilities, according to a memo shared with teams today.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 30, 2020
That being allowed would seem to indicate that the league is pretty optimistic all of this will get sorted out soon, and that the season will be returning sooner rather than later. Whether it’s in December, January or later, hopefully both sides are able to reach a fair agreement soon so we can learn when the Lakers’ title defense will officially begin in earnest.