As the United States goes through the 2020 election cycle, there is another, far less important vote being discussed right now around the NBA: When the 2020-21 season will begin.
On Monday, Zach Lowe and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that NBA commissioner Adam Silver felt like the league was running out of time to reach an agreement with the players to begin next season the week of Christmas, something that the league reportedly projects would cost them up to $1 billion in revenue over this year and the years to come.
While that update made it harder to believe a deal would actually get done in advance of Friday — the league and NBPA’s next deadline to agree on a multitude of CBA issues they’re currently negotiating — Shams Charania of the Athletic provided another update that offered a sliver of optimism that the two sides may be about to find some common ground and avoid a lockout:
The National Basketball Players Association is planning to hold a vote on Thursday night or Friday morning regarding the Dec. 22 start format to the 2020-21 season amid the coronavirus pandemic, sources told The Athletic.
The NBPA, led by executive director Michele Roberts, started formal conference calls with players from all 30 teams this week. Players have been holding calls with the NBPA beginning Monday and will go through Thursday morning. Players coming out of several meetings believe a Dec. 22 start is inevitable, sources said.
Charania’s full story (behind a paywall) had a lot more details on the full scope of the negotiations, but the two key takeaways were both put on Twitter, from what the players are trying to get out of agreeing to an earlier start, and how a season starting in December would look in terms of schedule compared to one that starts in January:
Sources: The NBA and NBPA are negotiating player salary escrow: a three-year withholding period — with league desiring 25 percent and NBPA proposing 15 percent.https://t.co/NdQw0PVi7r— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 3, 2020
According to @ShamsCharania, there is a growing belief from players that a December 22nd start date will happen— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) November 3, 2020
Here is a look at the layout of a December vs. January start date, via @TheAthleticNBA pic.twitter.com/f10rGLCOPK
As we’ve written extensively about before, the Lakers aren’t going to like this. That said, while it sucks that they’re somewhat getting “punished” for their success, this is bigger than one team. This is about the overall success and financial wellbeing of the league and the players who play in it, the vast majority of whom have had a ton of time off and are likely ready to start getting paychecks again.
Ten teams haven’t played since March. Then, following a four-month hiatus, four other teams haven't played since mid-August, and eight others haven't since early September. Over two-thirds of the NBA have had at least three months off. I'd bet on the Dec. 22 start to be approved. https://t.co/7K8E3gahpC— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) November 3, 2020
The start date (and how much money the NBA gains or loses as a result of it) affects the paychecks of every player in the league, the cap, and financial decisions these organizations and the arenas they play in have to make. No one is going to cry over millionaires or billionaires losing money, but there are team employees around the NBA that are either furloughed or on the verge of layoffs. The sooner the NBA comes back, the better for those on the fringes of the league.
(In the interest of full disclosure, a return also makes my job much easier to do, so feel free to take my points with a grain of salt).
So if this start saves some jobs and helps the vast majority of the players in the league financially, the Lakers are probably just going to lose this battle and have to return. That will suck for them individually and likely necessitate some extra load management, but it is what it is. If this approval is really “inevitable,” the Lakers will just have to try and make the best of yet another adverse situation in a year in which they’ve dealt with plenty such circumstances.
At least they have plenty of experience doing so by now.