Speaking today to reporters on a conference call, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said the NBA has indicated to GMs that the schedule for the 2020/21 season may be somewhat compressed in order to avoid straying too far from the league’s usual calendar, reports Tim Bontemps of ESPN (via Twitter).
As Schlenk explains, that could mean more back-to-back sets or even instances of four games in five nights for teams (Twitter link via Bontemps). The NBA has tried to reduce – or eliminate – those stretches as much as possible in recent years, including increasing the number of days in the regular season from 170 to 177 as part of the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
With the NBA aiming to start the 2020/21 season on December 1, a 177-day regular season would run through May 26, as Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Typically, the league pencils in a little over two months for the postseason — in 2019, for instance, the playoffs started on April 13, with a Game 7 Finals date of June 16. A similar timeline in 2021 would result in the Finals potentially ending around August 1.
That schedule would be somewhat problematic for the NBA, which would prefer not to have its Finals overlapping with the start of the Tokyo Olympics. The Tokyo games have been postponed to next summer and are scheduled to begin on July 23, 2021.
On top of that, the National Basketball Players Association reportedly considers it unlikely that next season will start as early as December 1, since that timeline would create a tiny gap between the 2020 Finals and ’20/21 training camps for certain teams. The NBPA has to sign off on changes to the NBA’s annual calendar, so that start date may require some negotiation.
Reducing the number of games in the 2020/21 regular season would help condense the league year, but Schlenk told Bontemps today that the NBA hasn’t given any indication there will be fewer than 82 games on next season’s schedule (Twitter link via Malika Andrews of ESPN).
For now, the league and the players’ union are rightly focusing most of their attention on how the resumption of the 2019/20 season will work. However, figuring out how to fit in 82 games next season without playing too deep into the summer will be another issue the two sides have to address at some point, with compromises potentially required on both sides.