The Los Angeles Lakers will resume their regular season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando on July 31, but they, nor any other team, will finish their season with 82 games for the first time since the NBA lockout in 2011.
Under the new format that was approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors and Players’ Association last week, 22 teams will play eight regular season games before the start of the postseason, which will have the same 16-team, two-conference format. That means the Lakers will end their season having played a league-low 71 games. For context, the Dallas Mavericks will end their season having played 75 games.
From a competitive standpoint, that doesn’t change much for the Lakers. In fact, with just eight games left in the regular season, they only need to win a maximum of three games to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
From a financial standpoint, however, there will be some fluctuation, and Sam Amick broke it down in his latest for The Athletic:
There’s this financial bonus now, too: Sources say the eight regular season games being played will all count toward each team’s regional sports network television deals as well. For teams that have the most lucrative arrangements, such as the Lakers, this is a very big deal.
To wit: Sources say the Lakers pull in approximately $1.5 million per game from their RSN deal with Spectrum SportsNet, meaning they’ll recoup $12 million from those games in all while losing an estimated $8 million because the schedule won’t be completed. As I wrote in March of 2019, the first round is a bigger money-maker for teams than the last three rounds because teams still hold local television and radio rights before yielding in the second round. For league-wide perspective, one of the lower-end RSN deals that I’ve heard of pays approximately $200,000 per game.
So, as expected, teams are going to lose money; just not as much as they would have if the NBA decided to cancel the regular season and restart the season with the playoffs. We still don’t know how much all of this will affect the salary cap for the 2020-21 season, or beyond, but we do know one thing: basketball will be back in July, and the Lakers will be playing.
For now, that’s good enough.