Several reports have come out in recent days about where the NBA stands in its process to return for the 2020-21 NBA season. On one end, the NBA wants to rush back to a December 22nd start to appease television partners and make sure that there’s a full slate of Christmas Day games. On the players’ end, as you can imagine, there’s some pushback.
Some players cough LeBron James cough just finished playing earlier this month, and for training camps to begin in just a month from now would be wild. Naturally, this affects fewer teams, but as LeBron goes, the league goes. The belief earlier on was that the league would rather wait the furthest possible to make sure that teams could get fans in the arenas, but the further next season is pushed, the more the 2021-22 season gets compromised.
Additionally, the league has shown a renewed interest in getting the following 2021-22 season off to a good start for a number of reasons. While the “ratings!!!” conundrum shouldn’t be looked into too heavily (NBA engagement is at an all-time high), the NFL dominated the NBA Finals whenever there was a conflict. Again, that’s not the end-all-be-all of the issue, but it’s certainly safer for the league to remain in its current calendar structure. There’s also the Olympics to consider next July – an event in which the league would love to have its headliners feature heavily.
While the players have mounted a significant push for a return in January on MLK Day, that would signify a huge sacrifice in revenue for the league, and the less revenue the league earns, the more that could harm the players in the long run.
I’m no finance expert, but the escrow issue could eventually work out for players (if revenue balances out over time), but it could also extremely not work out if fans don’t make it back to the stands at all next season.
The NBA wants the December start so that they can fulfill their regional sports network contracts for 72 games with teams. That would be a big boost to overall league revenue, and that’s part of the reason why the Disney Bubble was a big relative success.
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
Both the NBA and the NBPA have agreed to extend the termination of the CBA deadline until next Friday, November 6th, but a resolution is likely to happen between now and then. The players won’t be happy about it, but personally, I see the December 22nd idea being the idea that wins out. Ethan Strauss of The Athletic outlined a schedule smoothing idea that would have the non-Bubble teams feature more in the first month of the season while the Bubble playoff teams ease their way into the season. That seems to be the most reasonable idea to me, but we’ll see.
The Celtics were one of the last four teams left in the playoffs, so the scheduling decision definitely impacts the team big time. Also, the revenue conversation impacts the team with players like Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter having player options ahead of free agency. There’s a lot to figure out in a short amount of time, so stay tuned to see how it all works out.