The National Basketball Players Association has yet to approve the NBA’s proposed start date of December 22 for the 2020/21 regular season. However, assuming the two sides opt to move forward with that plan, December 1 appears to be the likeliest opening date for training camps, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).
A three-week gap between the start of training camps and regular season games is fairly typical by NBA standards. At the start of the 2019/20 season, for instance, most teams opened training camps on October 1, while opening night fell on October 22. When the NBA restarted the season this summer following its four-month hiatus, teams began practicing around July 11 and seeding games began on July 30.
In each of those scenarios, preseason or exhibition games took place between the start of training camps and the start of the regular season schedule. Since the 2020/21 season isn’t expected to be played in a bubble environment, it’s not clear whether the NBA still intends to schedule preseason games or whether they’ll be viewed as unnecessary — that figures to be one of many matters of negotiation between the league and the NBPA.
The eight teams who weren’t invited to the Walt Disney World bubble this summer would likely welcome a December 1 start date for training camps, since they haven’t played in real games since early March. The first few teams eliminated in the summer would have also had a break of about three-and-a-half months.
The turnaround would be more challenging for teams that made deep playoff runs in Orlando. The Heat and Lakers, for instance, played their final game on October 11, so they’d only have 50 days off before reporting back to camp.
A December 1 start date for camps would also mean an extremely condensed free agency period, since the market isn’t expected to open until a few days after the November 18 draft. While most of the top players figure to sign new contracts during the first week of free agency, there would likely be a number of players still finding new NBA homes in December, after camps have already gotten underway.