The NBA’s Board of Governors and the National Basketball Players Association will hold separate calls on Thursday that are expected to culminate in an agreement on a December 22 start date for the 2020/21 regular season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe of ESPN.
As Shams Charania of The Athletic previously reported, the NBPA is expected to vote before the end of the week on the league’s December 22 proposal. Wojnarowski and Lowe say that vote will likely take place on Thursday night and that everything is progressing toward a deal between the NBA and the players’ union.
Per Woj and Lowe, the union is holding team conference calls prior to Thursday night – including several today – to provide details on the plan for 2020/21, including how the salary escrow will work going forward.
As Charania reported on Wednesday and as ESPN’s duo confirms, rather than holding a significant percentage (25-40%) of players’ salaries in escrow for ’20/21, the modified escrow figure is expected to be around 18% and will be applied to multiple seasons, smoothing out the losses for players.
Since the NBA and its players split revenue roughly 50/50 and the league is projecting a significant revenue decline for ’20/21, increasing the salary escrow is necessary to account for the losses from the players’ side.
According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), an 18% escrow for next season would withhold about $720MM from the players, not counting the reduced pay based on a 72-game schedule instead of an 82-game slate. The league and the union are still negotiating that 18% figure though, Woj and Lowe note.
Once the NBA and NBPA reach an agreement on the salary cap, escrow, season start date, and all the other major aspects of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that need to be tweaked, the transaction moratorium can be lifted and dates for free agency can officially be set.
As Charania detailed on Wednesday, a 72-game season that starts on December 22 is expected to end around mid-May, with the Finals finishing around July 22, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics. The NBA is planning for a 25% reduction in travel, with a six-day All-Star break in early March. Training camps would open on or around December 1.
A number of players had been advocating for a later opening night, given how long the 2019/20 season ran, and January 18 was the other start date being considered. However, as Lakers forward Jared Dudley explained today during an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Frank Isola (audio link), the NBA’s proposal of a December 22 start date and 72-game season is the only option that makes financial sense for players.
“We’ll vote on it, but to be honest with you, there’s no real vote. No one’s playing 55 games. We’ve got to play 72,” Dudley said. “It’s the money thing.”
The NBA has estimated that starting the season before Christmas will save upwards of $500MM to $1 billion in future revenue, per ESPN and other outlets.