NBA Schedule

And-Ones: NBA Finals, Coaching Award, Draft, Goudelock

The NBA has established dates for each game of the 2020 Finals, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The tentative dates could potentially be moved up if both the Eastern and Western Conference Semifinals end early, but for now the plan is tip off this year’s Finals on Wednesday, September 30, with Game 7 landing on Tuesday, October 13.

As Charania details, there would be one day off between every pair of games except for Games 4 and 5, which would take place on Oct. 6 and Oct. 9, giving teams one extra day of rest.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • After announcing earlier this week that it will name an All-Bubble Team and the Player of the Bubble, the NBA said on Wednesday night that there will also be an award for Coach of the Bubble, tweets Chris Mannix of SI.com. Monty Williams (Suns) and Jacque Vaughn (Nets) are among the top contenders for that honor, which will be announced on Saturday.
  • Jonathan Givony, Mike Schmitz, Kevin Pelton, and Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) provide an update on the draft, examining the challenges facing teams evaluating talent and how clubs’ philosophies may be altered as a result of the unusual pre-draft process. According to Givony, due to uncertainty about finances and the G League, some executives say they’ve been seeking out potential second-rounders who would be willing to play overseas rather than signing in the NBA right away.
  • David Aldridge and John Hollinger of The Athletic explore the challenges facing the NBA as it plans its 2020/21 season. We’ve previously touched on some of those logistical and coronavirus-related issues here and here.
  • Former NBA guard Andrew Goudelock, who appeared in 49 games for the Lakers and Rockets between 2011-16, has signed a new contract with Rytas Vilnius in Lithuania, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Goudelock has also spent time with teams in Israel, China, and Italy since last playing in the NBA.

Financial, Logistical Uncertainty Looms Over 2020/21 NBA Season

Now that the NBA has finalized its plan for the summer restart and teams have reported to Orlando, we have a pretty clear idea of what the rest of the 2019/20 season will look like, assuming it can be completed. However, uncertainty looms over the ’20/21 campaign, which doesn’t yet have an official start date.

According to Alex Silverman of Morning Consult, the NBA’s Global Innovation Group recently sent out an internal planning document outlining four possible scenarios for the 2020/21 season. Three of the proposed scenarios would feature a December start date and a July end date, but the fourth would see the season start in March 2021 and run through October, Silverman writes.

As Silverman explains, that fourth scenario is one that could be considered if there’s a pathway in early 2021 to a coronavirus vaccine or therapeutic treatment for COVID-19 that would allow teams to host fans in their home arenas for a full season. Under that proposal, the league would consider breaking for the Tokyo Olympics in the summer and would execute a “rolling schedule” rather than releasing the full-season schedule at once, Silverman writes.

It seems more likely that the NBA will opt for one of the December-to-July scenarios (the league has tentatively proposed a December 1 start date), but that will mean making contingency plans and preparing for a wide variety of complications related to the state of the coronavirus pandemic across North America.

According to Silverman, the NBA may still have to consider rolling schedule releases if the season starts in December, as well as “increasing game density, building in buffers for canceled or rescheduled games, and potentially using alternate sites like neutral markets or practice and G League facilities.” Regionally restricting matchups to reduce travel is also a possibility, Silverman adds.

Determining how to safely play in a world with the coronavirus will be a crucial question for the NBA to answer as it weighs its options for next season, but there are other important factors to consider, per Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Notably, the NBA’s owners and players will have to agree to a deal on how to financially operate, and 30 teams facing different restrictions and market conditions will have to figure out the best way to share revenues.

As Windhorst and Bontemps explain, the NBA salvaged its lucrative television deals in 2019/20 and had played about 75% of its regular season before the coronavirus pandemic forced a stoppage, so the financial losses were significant but not debilitating.

During the 2020/21 season, however, teams might not be able to fill their arenas with fans at all from opening night through the playoffs, which would significantly cut into the league’s earnings — commissioner Adam Silver has estimated that about 40% of the NBA’s revenues come from ticket sales and other arena-related revenues.

“The truth is, things are changing so fast that, when it comes to next season, the best we can do is put a stake in the ground and make a guess,” an Eastern Conference team president told ESPN. “The reality is nobody is probably going to operate in the black next season. The only question is how much each of us are going to lose.”

According to Windhorst and Bontemps, the league’s financial situation will become even cloudier if – due to local health restrictions and regulations – some teams can’t get fans into their arenas while others can. In a typical season, massive revenues for teams like the Lakers and Warriors help support smaller-market clubs. But if those smaller-market teams can host fans while big-market teams can’t, “traditional revenue sharing becomes distorted,” Windhorst and Bontemps write.

Sources tell ESPN that NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum recently told team presidents that the league’s plan for now is to allow local governments to regulate crowds at games. That means franchises around the NBA could be at the mercy of the policy views of local governors and mayors.

The salary cap for the 2020/21 season will be another important detail to resolve. While there’s a widespread desire to artificially smooth the cap based on this year’s $109MM rather than allowing a substantial dip, that will require negotiations between owners and players. Additionally, as Windhorst and Bontemps note, since owners and players share the NBA’s revenues, there will have to be some sort of system in place to ensure a split near 50/50 is maintained, even as revenues decrease.

According to the ESPN duo, one option would be to increase the amount of players’ salaries that are held in escrow from 10% to 20%. Another option would be for the excess player salaries needed to balance the revenue split to be offset in future seasons.

“In one case, the owners want a loan from the players. And in the other case, the players want a loan from the owners,” one agent told ESPN. “It will probably end up somewhere in the middle and it will get done after some yelling and posturing.”

The NBA put in a ton of work to establish a plan to end the 2019/20 season — much more work will be required to figure out what next season will look like.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pelicans-Jazz Begins NBA Restart On July 30

The Pelicans and rookie star Zion Williamson will face the Jazz on July 30 at 6:30 p.m. ET in the first game of the NBA’s restart, the league announced on Friday.

There will be 88 “seeding” games from July 30 to August 14 prior to the postseason.

The Clippers will square off against the Lakers in the second game on July 30 at 9 p.m. ET. The first two games will be broadcast by TNT.

It will get very busy the next day with six games scheduled, highlighted by Celtics vs. Bucks and Rockets vs. Mavericks. There will be a maximum of seven games per day, with start times ranging from 12-9 p.m.

At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the highest combined winning percentages across regular-season games and seeding games will be the first through seventh seeds for the conference playoffs.  If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage (regular-season games and seeding games) in a conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage in the same conference, then the team with the eighth-best winning percentage would be the No. 8 seed.

If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage in a conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage in the same conference, then those two teams would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the No. 8 playoff seed in the conference.  The play-in tournament will be double elimination for the eighth-place team and single elimination for the ninth-place team.

Much of the intrigue regarding the seeding games concerns the final Western Conference spot. The Grizzlies, currently eighth, hold a 3 1/2-game lead over the Trail Blazers, Pelicans and Kings, a four-game lead over the Spurs and a six-game advantage on the Suns.

Memphis will face the Blazers, Spurs, Pelicans, Jazz, Thunder, Raptors, Celtics and Bucks during the seeding round. Among the Grizzlies’ pursuers, the Pelicans appear to have the weakest schedule. After opening against the Jazz, they’ll face the Clippers, Grizzlies, Kings (twice), Wizards, Spurs and Magic.

The Nets and Magic need only to hold off the Wizards in the East to claim the final two spots in their conference. Washington trails Brooklyn by six games and Orlando by 5 1/2 games.

The breakdown of each team’s seeding schedule can be found here. The day-by-day schedule and national TV schedule can be found here.

NBA, NBPA Officially Finalize Plan For Restart

The NBA and NBPA have officially finalized their plan for the resumption of the 2019/20 season, the league announced today in a press release. The announcement confirms the details that were previously reported on the single-site return to play, which will take place at Walt Disney World in Florida.

As part of the deal, the NBA has entered into an agreement with Walt Disney World that will make the Arena, the Field House, and Visa Athletic Center at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex the venues for the remaining games, which will tip off on July 30.

The schedule for the eight “seeding games” for the 22 teams participating in the restart will be announced on Friday night, according to the NBA. That announcement will include the national television schedule for those games.

The NBA’s announcement on its finalized plan comes on the same day that the state of Florida announced it has confirmed 8,942 new cases of the coronavirus, blowing away the previous record of 5,500 new cases in a day, set on Wednesday.

Those rising numbers are a major cause for concern, particularly since Disney staffers will be moving in and out of the NBA’s campus environment, but the league is confident in its 113-page manual detailing the health and safety protocols that will govern the return of the season.

“The rigorous program, which addresses risks related to COVID-19 and focuses on the well-being of players, coaches, officials and staff, was developed in consultation with public health experts, infectious disease specialists and government officials,” the NBA said in statement.

For more details on the NBA’s restart plan, be sure to check out our full primer.

NBA Draft, Free Agency Dates, Deadlines Set

The date for the 2020 NBA draft has been set for Friday, October 16, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Wojnarowski also notes (via Twitter) that free agency will open up two days later, on October 18, with a moratorium period on deals from October 19-23.

The NBA draft was originally tentatively rescheduled for October 15 with the draft lottery moved to August 25 from the original June 25 and May 19 dates, respectively.

In a pair of tweets, Wojnarowski says that the new early entry deadline for the draft is August 17, while the early entrant withdrawal deadline is October 6. The latter date makes sense, since the NBA’s deadline for early entrants to withdraw their names always falls 10 days before the draft.

However, the August 17 update may require some further clarification — the early entry deadline initially fell on April 26 and there was no indication at the time that the NBA had pushed it back. The NCAA recently set its own early entrant withdrawal deadline for no later than August 3.

In regards to free agency, teams will be able to negotiate with players starting at 6:00pm eastern time on October 18, per Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Players and teams figure to start reaching agreements at that point, though they won’t be able to complete them until a few days later. You can track all the players set to hit free agency this fall here.

Additionally, traded player exceptions that were originally set to expire on July 6-10 will expire on October 23-27, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link). You can track those trade exceptions here.

The NBA is currently working toward resuming the 2019/20 season through a bubble league in Orlando. If and when the season can be resumed and completed, the new dates will impact franchise’s plans for building rosters toward the ’20/21 campaign.

NBA Provides Updated Schedule For Restart

The NBA has provided teams with an updated timeline of its target dates for the rest of the 2019/20 season, according to reports from Marc Stein of The New York Times, Shams Charania of The Athletic, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (all Twitter links).

Those dates are as follows:

  • July 9-29: Training camps, including three inter-squad scrimmages.
  • July 30 – August 14: Seeding games.
  • August 15-16: Possible play-in tournaments.
  • August 17: Start of postseason.
  • August 30: Guests/family members permitted to arrive.
  • August 31 – September 13: Conference Semifinals.
  • September 15-28: Conference Finals.
  • September 30 – October 13: NBA Finals.

These are pretty similar to the dates that were previously reported, with a few tweaks here and there. For instance, as Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter), the target date for a possible Game 7 of the NBA Finals is now Tuesday, October 13 (instead of October 12), sidestepping a potential conflict with Monday Night Football.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), the NBA informed clubs that players traveling from outside the U.S. will need to report to their respective teams’ markets by June 15 (Monday), while other players will have to arrive by June 22.

Meanwhile, sources tell Charania (Twitter link) that two assistant coaches or developmental personnel (instead of one) are now permitted to work out with a player. As of June 23, head coaches will be allowed to supervise players’ workouts, Charania adds. Teams will be required to make sure their players are being tested for COVID-19 between June 23 and June 30, before they travel to Orlando, tweets Charania.

Despite the slew of updates today on the NBA’s proposed schedule, the league doesn’t yet have any news on the most important item of interest for many players: its health and safety protocols. Negotiations between the NBA and NBPA on those protocols are ongoing, league sources tell Stein (Twitter link).

NBA Adjusts Target Restart Date To July 30

The NBA has slightly adjusted its target date for the first games of the resumed 2019/20 season, moving it up to July 30, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). The league had previously been targeting July 31.

[RELATED: Details On NBA’s Return-To-Play Plan]

Obviously, shifting that tentative start date by one day doesn’t represent a major change. Still, with teams in Orlando expected to have to deal with at least one back-to-back set during the eight seeding games and possibly again in the first round of the playoffs, each extra day that the NBA has to work with could come in handy.

It’s also worth noting that July 30 is a Thursday, which is typically a marquee night on the NBA’s weekly in-season calendar that often features a TNT doubleheader. In terms of attracting television viewers, it may make more sense for the league to relaunch its season on a Thursday than on a Friday.

The NBA still has to work out several details related to its return and finalize a revamped schedule, but the league now has a general idea of each team’s opponents during the eight seeding games, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Condensed Schedule Possible For 2020/21 Season

Speaking today to reporters on a conference call, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said the NBA has indicated to GMs that the schedule for the 2020/21 season may be somewhat compressed in order to avoid straying too far from the league’s usual calendar, reports Tim Bontemps of ESPN (via Twitter).

As Schlenk explains, that could mean more back-to-back sets or even instances of four games in five nights for teams (Twitter link via Bontemps). The NBA has tried to reduce – or eliminate – those stretches as much as possible in recent years, including increasing the number of days in the regular season from 170 to 177 as part of the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

With the NBA aiming to start the 2020/21 season on December 1, a 177-day regular season would run through May 26, as Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Typically, the league pencils in a little over two months for the postseason — in 2019, for instance, the playoffs started on April 13, with a Game 7 Finals date of June 16. A similar timeline in 2021 would result in the Finals potentially ending around August 1.

That schedule would be somewhat problematic for the NBA, which would prefer not to have its Finals overlapping with the start of the Tokyo Olympics. The Tokyo games have been postponed to next summer and are scheduled to begin on July 23, 2021.

On top of that, the National Basketball Players Association reportedly considers it unlikely that next season will start as early as December 1, since that timeline would create a tiny gap between the 2020 Finals and ’20/21 training camps for certain teams. The NBPA has to sign off on changes to the NBA’s annual calendar, so that start date may require some negotiation.

Reducing the number of games in the 2020/21 regular season would help condense the league year, but Schlenk told Bontemps today that the NBA hasn’t given any indication there will be fewer than 82 games on next season’s schedule (Twitter link via Malika Andrews of ESPN).

For now, the league and the players’ union are rightly focusing most of their attention on how the resumption of the 2019/20 season will work. However, figuring out how to fit in 82 games next season without playing too deep into the summer will be another issue the two sides have to address at some point, with compromises potentially required on both sides.

More Details On NBA’s Tentative Summer Schedule

The National Basketball Players Association held a call on Monday in which the players’ union discussed several proposed dates for the NBA schedule this summer, according to Shams Charania of Stadium (video link).

We already know that July 31 is the target date to begin the eight “seeding games” and that the plan is for Game 7 of the NBA Finals (if necessary) to fall on October 12. Charania’s reporting sheds some light on the gaps between those dates. Here are a few more tentative dates for the 2020 postseason, per Charania:

  • August 16-17: Play-in tournament(s)
  • August 18: First round of playoffs begin
  • September 1: Conference Semifinals begin
  • September 15: Conference Finals begin
  • September 30: NBA Finals begin

These dates aren’t set in stone, but the plan gives us a clearer idea of what the summer schedule figures to look like. If these dates stick, there would likely be a back-to-back set for each team in the first round of the postseason, which has been previously reported. Beginning in the second round, there should be no more back-to-backs.

Based on the dates Charania provides, it looks like a back-to-back set would also be necessary for a play-in tournament if two games are required (ie. if the No. 9 team beats the No. 8 team in the first game). Presumably, whichever team comes out of that tournament wouldn’t have to start its first round series until August 19, but it could still be a pretty grueling stretch for the eventual No. 8 seed ahead of a postseason matchup with the Bucks or Lakers.

NBPA Views December 1 Start Date For 2020/21 As “Unlikely”

The National Basketball Players Association announced today that it has approved further negotiations with the NBA on its resumption plan and various changes to the league’s calendar. However, the NBPA also told its players that it considers a December 1 start date for the 2020/21 regular season “unlikely,” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

As we noted in our earlier story, the players’ union and the league still need to work out a number of details, with many aspects of the Collective Bargaining Agreement expected to be revisited and renegotiated.

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts has informed members that next season’s start date and “a myriad of items” will be part of the union’s negotiations with the NBA in the coming weeks, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

A November 10 training camp date and December 1 regular season tip-off date were among the most surprising details put forth by the NBA on Thursday. There’s a belief that the league hopes to start the 2020/21 season that early in part because it would allow next year’s Finals to wrap up before the Tokyo Olympics begin on July 23, 2021.

However, since this year’s NBA Finals could run as late as October 12, some players could have less than a month off if such an aggressive timeline is approved. As such, those proposed 2020/21 dates were considered tentative and subject to change even before Charania’s report this afternoon.

Details related to the league’s health and safety protocols for this summer’s restart will also need to be negotiated and finalized. A number of financial issues – including how much players are ultimately paid for 2019/20 and what the salary cap for ’20/21 will look like – will need to be addressed and resolved as well.