There are more rumblings around the NBA that next season will start around Christmastime, pending NBPA approval. And there are more details on when other key offseason dates will be.
According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the 2020 NBA free agency period. could start around Nov. 20 or Nov. 21, just a few days after the draft on Nov. 18. He also reported that training camps would be held on Dec. 1.
Some teams, I'm told, are preparing for NBA free agency to begin as early as Nov. 20 or Nov. 21 -- 48 to 72 hours after the Nov. 18 NBA Draft -- if the plan to start the 2020-21 season Dec. 22 goes ahead. Further clarity is expected by week's end ...— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 27, 2020
Dec. 1, I'm told, has emerged as the likely opening day for NBA training camps if the league's plan to set Dec. 22 as opening night of the 2020-21 season is approved by the union— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 27, 2020
There are still some major questions to answer for a Dec. 22 season start date.
Will the NBPA approve this plan?
Most teams, like the Washington Wizards will be well-rested, since they haven’t been playing since August. Eight teams that didn’t play in the bubble will be playing for the first time since March. And for the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, they were playing in the Finals earlier this month.
I would think that most players would be on board, though the Lakers in particular have expressed their reluctance to start around Christmastime. Christmas Day is the first major regular season date on the NBA season calendar, and the league will want to continue playing games there after the pandemic ends.
Also, with the 2020 NBA Finals’ ratings dropping by half from last year while competing against the NFL and college football, it’s clear that the league also doesn’t want to end the playoffs in the fall.
Will the NBA season start in another bubble like Orlando this last summer or in home markets like the NFL and MLB?
If training camp is on Dec. 1 and the season starts just three weeks later, the league will likely be in home markets, something the league wants. As for whether fans are in the stands, that will likely depend on state and local government regulations.
Count me as someone who is adamantly opposed to the NBA playing in home markets next season. And I would think players would be more open to be in a bubble because a second wave of the coronavirus is beginning to start in the United States. It will almost definitely be worse this winter as people head indoors and hold small gatherings for the holidays between Thanksgiving in late November and New Year’s Day.
We have seen how the spikes happen during the course of the pandemic. They happen about a month after those holidays. And the NBA could be starting a month after Thanksgiving, possibly with ... fans in some arenas? Just saying.
How will the NBA deal with players who don’t want to play due to coronavirus fears?
Before the Orlando bubble last summer, Davis Bertans and Bradley Beal didn’t play for the Wizards due to pending free agency and injury rehab, respectively. But both were also probably were scared of getting the coronavirus. The NBA was very accommodating to players who decided not to play in Orlando, at least in part because the medical community knew very little about COVID-19.
But next season, the league will probably not be so friendly. I don’t think NBA teams will pay players who skip the season due to being scared of the coronavirus, though I don’t think they will void contracts because of it. Also, the medical community knows a lot more about COVID-19, but again, there is still a lot to learn.
Perhaps the NBA will have something like the WNBA’s suspended list when their players can’t fulfill contractual duties. In their league, it often affects non-American players when they are in European tournaments or when others work on social justice causes. I know, I take issue with this list being called the “suspended list,” but I digress. For the NBA, such a list would be for players who decide that it’s too risky to play.