A “substantial faction” of NBA players – including some stars – are pushing for the 2020/21 regular season to begin on Martin Luther King Day (January 18), rather than on December 22, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).
As Haynes details, these players would also like to see free agency begin on December 1. Under the league’s current proposal, December 1 has been cited as a possible start date for training camps, with free agency expected to open as early as two or three days after the November 18 draft.
Based on Haynes’ report, it’s not clear how many players are in favor of pushing the start date for the season back to January or which players are leading the charge. But it’s probably safe to assume that those who are advocating most strongly for a delay are members of teams that made playoff runs at Walt Disney World this summer. Presumably those players who have been off since March would welcome an earlier start.
When word broke on Friday that the NBA had changed course on its plans for the 2020/21 season and wanted to schedule opening night for December 22, financial reasons were cited as a major motivating factor. One report suggested that starting the season before Christmas could save the NBA $500MM in revenues that might otherwise be lost.
Saving the league’s December 25 showcase would benefit the league financially; so would playing the postseason in the spring and summer rather than going up against the start of the NFL season, as the league did this year. The NBA has also proposed a 72-game schedule, which would satisfy the criteria for teams’ local television contracts.
The National Basketball Players Association has to sign off on any proposal from the NBA, so if there’s a significant faction of players pushing for a January 18 start, they’ll have some leverage. However, if the league’s financial projections are accurate, there will likely be another significant faction of players who will favor the December 22 start. NBPA leadership will have to try to negotiate some sort of consensus among its members.