NBA close to Dec. 22 start date for 2020-21: report

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The National Basketball Players Association is close to a deal that would start the 2020-21 NBA season on Dec. 22 with a reduced schedule of 72 games per team, according to ESPN.

The Athletic previously reported the possibility of a 72-game season that would start just before Christmas. According to ESPN, the NBA’s board of governors and the NBPA were holding separate meetings on the matter Thursday with the expectation that the start date would be approved.

The upcoming regular season, if agreed upon, would be 10 games shy of a typical NBA regular-season schedule.

The players association is expected to take a vote among team player representatives at some point Thursday, according to the ESPN report. A salary escrow in the vicinity of 18 percent was expected to be agreed upon for the next two years.

The NBA draft is scheduled for Nov. 18, with training camps likely to open Dec. 1.

The projected start date would leave the possibility that the regular season would finish before the start of the 2021 Summer Olympics, which are set to begin on July 23 in Tokyo.

There is no indication when or if games in the 2020-21 season would be played in front of fans. The NBA lost $800 million in ticket sales during the just-concluded season because of the ongoing pandemic, ESPN reported on Oct. 28.

The league also reportedly lost $400 million in sponsorship and merchandise plus $200 million in “net negative impact” from China due to fallout from then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressing support for Hong Kong protestors against the Beijing government.

If agreed upon, the Dec. 22 start date would leave just seven weeks before the opening of the new season. The deal being decided upon would override the original promise from the league to give players an eight-week notice before the start of the season.

The NBA became the first pro league to suspend play amid the COVID-19 pandemic, doing so on March 11. The league moved into a bubble in late July at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando to finished out an abbreviated regular season.

The Los Angeles Lakers won the title during the most peculiar of seasons, defeating the Miami Heat in a six-game NBA Finals that was played only in front of the players’ family and close friends.

The Lakers earned their deciding 106-93 victory over the Heat on Oct. 11, just 11 days shy of making it a full year from when they started their regular-season schedule with a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

–Field Level Media