The NBA is officially in an offseason. However, there wasn’t much about when the next season would start until today.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic as well as Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe of ESPN, the NBA is aiming to start the 2020-21 NBA season on Dec. 22 with a 72-game regular season. That would allow the league to play games on Christmas, which is traditionally one of the biggest days of the regular season calendar.
As for how the season would actually be done, that’s not entirely clear. But given the NBA’s ambitions, the league has wanted to start the season in home markets with fans where permissible. That probably won’t happen in many cities. Also, it remains to be seen if players are kept in some type of bubble environment in a home market or not.
The league also wants to avoid playing postseason games right as the NFL and college football regular seasons get underway, which may be prompting an earlier-than-anticipated start of January 2021. The 2020 NBA Finals were in late September and October and saw a 49 percent ratings drop, year over year. At the same time, the NBA wants to get a regular season and playoff period before the Olympics in July.
But more importantly, the NBA also has to manage the coronavirus pandemic, presumably in markets where there could be very high transmissions. The second wave has already hit Europe, and their cases jumped from manageable levels last summer, after lockdowns of course. In America, the virus hasn’t been managed as well, so the spike in some American cities will likely be as bad, if not worse. That second wave has already begun here, though we just don’t know how bad things will ultimately get.
I know. I’ve been very pessimistic about the coronavirus affecting sports and the NBA since this pandemic started in March. I get that the world can’t stop just because of the virus and that we can’t “fear the unknown.”
While I’m not surprised that the NBA is considering an earlier start, I’m more interested in learning what the league plans on doing to keep players and staff as safe as possible during this pandemic. Ultimately, player and worker safety must come first, even if the NBA has to sacrifice some more dollars in the year ahead.