Over the past few weeks, the prevailing thought was that Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January would be the earliest the NBA could start next season.
Now there is momentum for it to start considerably earlier than that.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported Friday that the NBA’s Board of Governors would be meeting to discuss “starting as quickly as possible,” with a Christmas Day start date a possibility, as well as the idea that fewer than the normal 82 regular-season games would be played.
A few hours later, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported the league “is targeting Dec. 22 for the start of the 2020-21 season and a 72-game campaign that finishes before the 2021 Olympics.”
Both Wojnarowski and Charania reported the preference is to play in teams’ home markets, but there is growing acceptance that there may not be fans at games. That would go against the stated desire of league commissioner Adam Silver from last month when he said, “The goal for us next season is to play a standard season, 82-game season and playoffs in home arenas in front of fans.”
Wojnarowski and Charania both also reported the league wants to continue the play-in tournament that it started during the summer bubble in Orlando for the final playoff seed in each conference. The tournament was very successful in increasing fan excitement.
Both noted that the players’ association will need to approve the start date, whenever it may end up being.
Charania reported the league is looking for ways to reduce travel, such as playing multiple games against the same team in the same city during a trip, as is done in baseball. It’s a discussion item that has been brought up for a number of reasons, most notably safety concerns, but players in the bubble during the playoffs also liked not having to travel.
There is still significant work to be done to iron out financial items such as the salary cap, with the expectation that they will be solved prior to the Nov. 18 draft so teams can enter it and free agency with a clear picture of how to operate during that transaction window.