The NBA reportedly informed its Board of Governors this week that the 2020/21 season won’t begin any earlier than Christmas Day. While starting next season on December 25 – typically one of the biggest days on the NBA’s calendar – might seem ideal, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts isn’t sure it will be possible.
“I do think we’ll have a season, but I don’t think it will begin in December,” Roberts told David Gelles of The New York Times.
There’s reportedly a consensus hope among the NBA league office and team owners that the ’20/21 season can tip off in late-December or at some point in January. However, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer tweeted on Thursday that he wouldn’t be surprised if the season doesn’t begin until February or even March. The league and the players’ union will both have to sign off on a revamped schedule.
One of the NBA’s top priorities for next season is getting fans back into arenas, since a significant chunk of the league’s revenues are tied to ticket sales and in-arena purchases. Roberts is hopeful that can happen, but acknowledged to Gelles that even if there are advances in coronavirus testing and treatment in the coming months, the idea of filling arenas next season is probably unrealistic.
“There will be a revenue drop,” Roberts said. “I do see a possibility of there being some reopening of some arenas. But if we’re lucky we will see 25 percent of the revenue that ordinarily comes through gate receipts, etc. That’s optimistic. Hopefully we can soften the blow, but I don’t see us packing arenas.”
Although Roberts is optimistic that some arenas will be able to accommodate fans – even if it happens later in the season and with a significantly reduced capacity – she suggested that some “bubble-like environment” may be necessary to start the season, given the state of the coronavirus pandemic and how successful the Walt Disney World bubble has been this summer.
“I suspect that we will have a hybrid environment, maybe with division bubbles that last for a certain number of months, and then we stop,” Roberts told Gelles. “But the concept of putting our players in a bubble for an entire season is unrealistic.”