The NBA is reportedly considering pushing the restart of the 2019-20 season all the way back until fall.
ESPN's Brian Windhorst spoke on the league's latest thinking in a Sunday appearance on SportsCenter:
"This is actually an interesting thing that has happened the last few days. The owners have gotten together and begun considering starting next season, the 2020-21 season, in December. And that is important. And there's good news and bad news. And let's start with the good news on a Sunday morning. This means that they really do believe that they can get the rest of this season in at some point. And this maneuver and these discussions are designed to build runway to allow themselves to do that. There's an optimism there that's gonna happen. Here's the bad news: They don't think it's gonna be able to happen any time soon, and they're going to need that additional runway. And so this may be something that doesn't get played out in final until the fall. There's even been discussion about not restarting until the fall. So, a lot of things on the table, but there is some optimism there that's hidden in these latest moves."
The NBA has not made any public commitment to a timeframe for returning to action. However, the league has been publicly committed to finishing the 2019-20 regular season if at all possible.
A desire to finish the season is both competitively and financially motivated. The NBA could, in theory, cancel the 2019-20 season now and have a full offseason that may allow the league to return as normal in October—though that may happen without fans in arenas.
The league could conduct the lottery, draft and free agency to satiate fans while fully preparing itself for a new season.
However, that would mark the first time in NBA history no champion has been crowned—undoing the 65ish games of work all teams put in during the regular season. LeBron James is among the prominent players who spoke out in favor of returning to the 2019-20 season when safe.
Pushing things back also allows the NBA to, potentially, minimize its losses from missed games. The league will have to pay networks back for games that are canceled, costing millions in revenue. A return—even one that takes place in the fall—allows the NBA to satisfy television contracts and save that revenue stream.