NBA Flexible With Start Of Next Season

The NBA’s experiment at the Disney World campus continues to be a success, with no COVID-19 cases reported in the latest round of testing, but uncertainty still surrounds the start of next season, writes ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The league office is telling teams that the priority will be to play a full 82-game schedule and to have fans present for as many of those games as possible. December 1 has been set as a tentative start date, but the league is willing to be flexible if it would result in more games with paying customers. Sources tell Wojnarowski that Martin Luther King Day, January 18, is being considered for opening night and February and March are realistic as well.

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It’s also possible that some NBA cities will be able to host large crowds by winter, while others still have high virus rates. Woj says conversations have been held regarding neutral-site games or having teams temporarily move to non-NBA markets where fans could attend. Canada’s borders may still be closed to U.S. traveling parties when the season begins, forcing the Raptors to move their operations to an American city.

The NBA doesn’t plan to repeat the “bubble” concept with 22 teams, but sources say several teams could be sent to regional sites for roughly a month at a time to play games. They would then go home to train for about two weeks before moving onto the next site. Orlando is being considered as one of the cities, along with Las Vegas, which was a finalist to host this year’s restart.

Wojnarowski shares a few more tidbits from Orlando:

  • There’s growing skepticism that next season can be completed in time for NBA players to take part in the Olympics. However, one idea being discussed is a month-long midseason break similar to what the NHL has done for the Winter Olympics.
  • The reactions of other teams fighting for the eighth and ninth seeds in the Western Conference ranged from “displeased” to “livid” regarding Utah’s decision to rest four starters Friday in a loss to the Spurs. San Antonio is among six closely bunched teams that are fighting to reach the postseason, and there are concerns that the Jazz may do the same thing when they face the Spurs again in their final reseeding game. The league has warned teams about preserving the integrity of the games, but it is limited in what it can do about players sitting out.
  • The players union doesn’t support a plan to bring the eight idle teams to Orlando once the first group leaves the WDW campus. Sources tell Wojnarowski that the “inevitable solution” will be voluntary workouts at team facilities. The NBPA won’t consent to making those workouts mandatory.
  • Jacque Vaughn has been assured he will get “significant consideration” in the Nets‘ search for a new coach, which is expected to begin once Brooklyn is eliminated from the playoffs. In Chicago, the new management team is taking its time in evaluating Jim Boylen’s coaching future. Several prominent assistants who would be considered for the job are in Orlando, so there’s no rush to make a move, Wojnarowski adds.
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