In recent weeks, it seemed as if the NBA was becoming more and more open to a later start date for the 2020/21 season. Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts publicly suggested that the season was unlikely to begin until January, while some reports suggested that a February or March opening night was more realistic.
However, that changed on Friday, when word broke that the league is now looking to begin its ’20/21 campaign before Christmas. According to Marc Berman of The New York Post and Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the NBA’s finance committee played a major role in that abrupt pivot.
“The owners’ finance committee – there’s a group of owners who make up the finance committee – had a meeting and in that meeting they looked at everything and decided ‘You know what? We need to play sooner rather than later,'” Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast, per RealGM.
“It’s interesting Silver talked behind the scenes about waiting until a March time-frame if it meant getting a vaccine,” one NBA insider told Berman. “That’s until the finance committee showed him the numbers.”
Tipping off the 2020/21 season before Christmas would allow the NBA to air games on December 25, which is one of the most important days of the year for the league’s TV partners. It would also allow the league to hold its playoffs in the spring, with the Finals taking place at the very start of summer, instead of in the late-summer and fall like this year. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported over the weekend that the NBA believes its new plan could mean salvaging $500MM in potential revenue.
“The priority is getting back to the October-to-June format for 2021/22,” a source told Berman. “They found out the hard way not enough people watch TV in the summer. The virus and real-life struggles obscure the reality that sports on TV in the summer don’t generate enough viewers.”
Here are a few more items related to the NBA’s tentative plans for the 2020/21 season:
- People around the league don’t expect push-back from the players’ union to derail the NBA’s proposed schedule, Windhorst stated on his Hoop Collective podcast. “They’re probably going to have to agree to this,” Windhorst said (per RealGM). “In talking to people on the league side this past week, they didn’t act like getting the players to agree was going to be that big of a stumbling block. I’m sure some people are going to be upset, but I’m not sure what they can do about it.”
- Assuming the plan gets the go-ahead, the free agent period and offseason will be accelerated in a major way, which isn’t great news for teams expecting to have major roster turnover this fall, as Berman writes. “This is going to favor teams with stable rosters,” one source told The New York Post.
- While it sounds as if the NBA is moving toward a December return, there are still a number of potential obstacles to take into account, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com.
- Teams are hoping to get clarity soon about where the salary cap will land for 2020/21, as well as an updated projection for ’21/22. Appearing on today’s episode of The Lowe Post podcast with Zach Lowe, ESPN’s Bobby Marks said that for the time being, most teams are using a $115MM cap estimate for ’21/22.