Report: NBA to Discuss 2020-21 Season Start Date, Shorter Schedule on Call

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2020

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver does an interview before Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The NBA Board of Governors is set to discuss the 2020-21 schedule, including a potential start date, when it meets Friday.

According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe, the board will explore the possibility of starting the 2020-21 season on Christmas Day in order to take advantage of a potentially huge viewing audience. Some team representatives reportedly don't view that as practical, however, which could lead to increased talks regarding starting the season around Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in mid-January.

Marc Stein of the New York Times reported the idea of a Christmas Day start is gaining momentum.

The board is also expected to discuss possibly implementing a schedule in which teams would play fewer than 82 regular-season games.

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported the NBA is targeting a Dec. 22 start and a 72-game season that would end before the 2021 Summer Olympics.

According to Charania, teams stand to make over $500 million more if they start Dec. 22 as opposed to a later date.

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He also noted the league wants to continue using the play-in tournament to determine the Eastern and Western Conference's eighth seed in the playoffs.

The 2019-20 regular season was not played in full because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was finished along with the playoffs inside the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida.

While NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said last month that the league's goal is to play an 82-game slate with fans in attendance next season, that may not be possible. As a result, the NBA is reportedly looking into starting the season before fans are permitted to attend at all NBA arenas.

According to Windhorst and Lowe, the NBA Board of Governors is also expected to talk about the possibility of in-season tournaments, which is something the league has toyed with implementing in recent years.

The NBA season traditionally starts near the end of October, so delaying the start by two months or more would make it difficult to play an 82-game slate, unless the league either schedules fewer off days or allows the playoffs to end later than they normally would.

The NBA would likely prefer for the playoffs to end on time so the start of the 2021-22 season isn't adversely impacted.

The 2020 NBA draft is scheduled for Nov. 18 with free agency likely to start shortly thereafter. Starting the season on Christmas Day would only give rookies and new signings about one month to get acclimated to their new teams.

That could be a significant strike against the idea of starting the season on Christmas, although that decision will ultimately be made by the NBA Board of Governors and the NBPA, which must approve any plan that is put in place.