NBA May Only Offer 50-Game Season If Players Want January 18 Start

As ESPN reported earlier this week and as NBPA vice president Malcolm Brogdon confirmed during an appearance on The Jump on Thursday, the expectation is that the league’s 2020/21 season will start on either December 22, the date proposed by the NBA, or January 18, the date that a number of players reportedly prefer.

However, if the players insist on starting the season on Martin Luther King Day rather than before Christmas, the NBA may only offer a 50-game season, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). The league’s December 22 plan would result in a 72-game season.

As Stein explains – and as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press confirms (via Twitter) – the NBA’s television partners are pushing for the earlier start date and/or a shortened schedule because they don’t want the season to clash with the Tokyo Olympics in July and August. Those TV partners presumably also wouldn’t be enthusiastic about the NBA postseason running into September again and competing with the NFL.

Completing the 2020/21 season in July would allow the NBA to get back to its usual October-to-June calendar for the ’21/22 campaign. However, a 50-game season would result in a substantial pay reduction for players, since their earnings are tied to league revenue, as cap expert Albert Nahmad observes (via Twitter). As such, the NBPA is unlikely to be on board with such a plan.

It sounds as if the NBA and NBPA still have some work to do to bridge the gap on the season’s start date and length. And while the two sides had previously set October 30 (today) as the deadline to negotiate changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Brogdon indicated during his appearance on The Jump yesterday that he expects that deadline to be pushed back for a fourth time. NBPA executive director Michele Roberts conveyed a similar sentiment earlier in the week.

If the league and players’ union move forward with the NBA’s December 22 plan, training camps would begin on or around December 1, so the two sides will need to reach some sort of agreement sooner rather than later. According to Stein (via Twitter), a resolution is expected by next week, since all involved parties are “antsy for clarity.”

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