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NBA Reportedly Has Support to Start 2020-21 Season in December, End in August

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIIMay 1, 2020

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference before an NBA preseason basketball game between the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Saitama, near Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

As the status of the 2019-20 NBA season continues to be up in the air, Commissioner Adam Silver has begun considering the league's options for hosting the 2020-21 season.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, that may include a drastic shift to the league's normal calendar:

There's support for a 2020-2021 season that would start in December and extend through late July or August, sources said. Silver has been preparing teams for the possibility of a delayed start to next season, which would potentially address the league's longer-range concerns, whether this season is completed or not. 

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is considering a similar change to its league schedule for 2020-21. 

Pushing back the start date of the next NBA season has two major benefits. For one, it would give the league more time to complete the 2019-20 season, but most importantly, the longer the league can delay, the more likely it is fans will be able to return to stadiums as potential vaccines for COVID-19 are not expected to become available until 2021. 

Wojnarowski notes the league understands public concerns of returning to the stands without a vaccine or cohesive treatment, even if arenas implement social distance guidelines. 

Even before the coronavirus spurred the league to fully consider a December start date, there were plenty around the league who voiced the opinion that it could benefit the NBA long-term. The most high profile of those supporters is Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin. 

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During the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in March, Koonin said moving the start of the season to December would increase viewership as teams wouldn't have to compete with the NFL or MLB playoffs. 

"We have built the architecture of our season based on the ad market, not based on the consumer," Koonin said. "What I'm saying is look at the spring, look at the summer, look at competing with baseball versus competing with the NFL, create more days, create time for practice, create longer training camps. Create time as your friend, rather than this artificial compression of second-quarter ad dollars being the arbiter for setting up our season." 

NBA senior vice president Evan Wasch didn't discount Koonin's opinion then, saying the change would depend on being able to convince the league's stakeholders adding premium content in August, typically a down period for viewership, would ultimately result in higher ratings. 

Now the league may have found an opening for a change—permanent or not—albeit under the worst circumstances. 

With limited options available, the league is open to whatever plan proves most feasible.

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